Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes the pressure on him has been relieved “a little bit” by wins over Swansea and Liverpool.
The Dutchman, however, is well aware that the scrutiny will be as intense as ever if his side fail to beat Southampton at Old Trafford on Saturday.
United are currently unbeaten in five games, which included three victories, following a dreadful spell of form at the end of 2015. A run of four successive defeats left the Red Devils out of the Champions League and languishing outside the top four of the Premier League, resulting in serious doubts over Van Gaal’s future at Old Trafford.
The manager appears to have ridden the storm and looks likely to remain in his job until the summer at least, but Van Gaal accepts the pressure will again increase should his side fail to claim three points on Saturday.
The 64-year-old told a press conference: “It is not interesting for me, it is only interesting for the players. The players play the game and have the resistance in the game, so I think the pressure is a little bit gone, but it would return if we lost against Southampton. It is always the same pressure for Manchester United – we have to win. Our fans are always expecting us to win, especially at home.”
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Wayne Rooney has also rediscovered some form, scoring five goals in the last four matches. Van Gaal believes the captain’s improvement has been a major factor in United’s revival.
The manager said: “It is a fact that since Rooney is scoring we have won our games, or at least we draw against Newcastle United away. There is a parallel and I have said that always that he is not only important as a player but as a captain, so I am very happy with him.”
Rooney was said to be one of a number of players “shouting and screaming” in the dressing room at half-time during last week’s win at Anfield, where an improved second-half performance earned a precious victory.
Van Gaal is happy for his players to have their say.
“Not only Wayne Rooney is doing that, there are several players doing that and that is what I want because the players are self responsible,” he insisted. “It is not only the manager which is why I have made this approach to the players. Responsibility for the result and commitment for the result is very important and that they are showing.”