Louis van Gaal has admitted that he must take reponsibility for Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League.
United’s 3-2 defeat in Wolfsburg means they will drop into the Europa League, with Van Gaal facing a barrage of criticism about the performances of his expensively assembled squad.
“At the moment I cannot defend myself because we are out of the Champions League,” he said.
“Every word I say is the wrong word. When you see the facts we went further in the Capital One Cup, we qualified for the Champions League group and we have played all these matches and we are still in a very good position in the Premier League. The facts do say we are better than last year. That’s my answer because I can only give facts. But I’m also disappointed that we are out of the Champions League.”
Twice United were pegged back within two minutes of scoring in what turned out to be an eventful match in Germany. Ultimately, the defeat, combined with PSV Eindhoven’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow, meant they finished third in Group B.
“It was a crazy match,” Van Gaal said. “Two times we gave away a goal within two minutes of scoring and that’s difficult to understand when we defend so well normally.
“This was a tight group so I do not agree that this was an easy group. Now it’s over. I’ve said to the players: ‘You cannot show your qualities any more in the Champions League. It’s the highest podium and you can’t do that. You have to wait until next year.’ It’s a pity but we have a lot to fight for – the FA Cup and the Premier League.”
The United manager was particularly disappointed with the performance of Bastian Schweinsteiger on his return to Germany.
“I have changed [substituted] him. I don’t change players for nothing. We’re all human beings and he is just a human being. But I cannot say that today this was the Schweinsteiger I had at Bayern Munich.”
Van Gaal’s own position has come under scrutiny, with the Dutchman receiving criticism from several former United players.
“They didn’t deserve to qualify,” said BT Sports pundit Rio Ferdinand. “You expect Man United to walk through. When you think of the money they have spent you can understand the fans’ frustrations. The pressure is growing on Louis van Gaal now.
“It’s embarrassing. I was in a squad that went into the Europa League and it’s an embarrassment.
“You don’t want to come out of your house, you don’t want to walk around Manchester.
“People look at you and think ‘you’re not good enough’, questioning you as an individual and as part of a team that didn’t get through the group stages that you should have.
His colleague, Paul Scholes, went even further, stating that United were ‘an average team’.
“There was no urgency, threat or quality,” he said. “United are just an average team and with an average team you get average performances. You have to say they have not bought as well as they could have done. If you are relying on a 20-year-old kid [Martial], it’s just not right.”
“They spend £250m and can’t qualify from a shocking group.
“It is more of a disaster when you are surprised. It was a shocking group. Will Wolfsburg and PSV get to the last eight? They will get knocked out in the next round.”
The ‘average’ theme was picked up by former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who tweeted: “THAT was as aver asge as could be. Not great at all and there’s a long way to go!”