Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has conceded his side have regressed this season – but remains confident of keeping his job.
United finished fifth in the Premier League after beating Bournemouth 3-1 in their rearranged final game, missing out on a Champions League position on goal difference.
It is the second time in three seasons United have not claimed a place in Europe’s elite competition and Van Gaal concedes that, after the progress of his first season, United have gone backwards.
Asked if they had taken a step back, Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference: “Of course, because our aim in the first year and also the second and the third shall be Champions League. It is the highest level and a club like Manchester United has to play at that level.
“But there are more clubs who want to play at that level and you have seen that.”
Van Gaal’s position has been the subject of speculation throughout the season but the Dutchman, despite persistent rumours linking Jose Mourinho with his job, expects to be staying on.
“Yes,” he said firmly when asked if he expected to be retained.
When asked why, he said: “Because I have signed a three-year contract.”
Van Gaal wants title bid in 2016/17
Van Gaal claims United, who still have the FA Cup final to play on Saturday, can bounce back and win the Premier League next season.
He said: “That is always possible because Leicester City was more or less a relegation team (last year). We were fourth and fifth. Normally we are closer (than them).”
Van Gaal addressed supporters from the pitch as United conducted their traditional end-of-season lap of appreciation. He thanked them for their “unconditional support” but his speech was not universally appreciated.
But when challenged on this by a reporter, Van Gaal said: “I have said that also with very much conscience. They have showed in spite of that we have not always played very well but they have supported the players on the pitch always.
“However things have gone on the pitch, they never let us down and they always have come, 75,000 always.”
At this point Van Gaal was challenged again because the attendance, after the game was initially abandoned on Sunday because of a bomb scare, was well down on capacity.
Van Gaal said: “But why do you think (that was)? I had 11 guests (come) for nothing, coming from the Netherlands and then I go to restaurant, Mr Wings, to receive my guests because they hadn’t seen a match.”