Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has felt under much greater pressure before than he does now, but knows the threat of his career ending with a sacking will loom if his team's results do not improve.
United are winless in five games in all competitions, have been beaten in their last two, are out of the Champions League and are six points off the top of the Premier League, while their playing style has been widely derided as dull.
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On Friday Van Gaal – who has stated his intention to retire when his current contract runs out in 2017 – dismissed reports suggesting there has been player unrest in the camp, stressing he has the “confidence” of the squad, as well as of the board.
But having admitted no manager is safe as he expressed his surprise at Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Chelsea, Van Gaal also said he is aware further losses could mean “the end of the world” for him – and emphasised his eagerness to avoid bowing out from football by being fired.
Asked ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Norwich City if he was currently under the most pressure he had been as a manager, the 64-year-old Dutchman said: “No.
“The pressure when I started as a manager was much higher. I cannot lose now that I am at the end of my career.”
He was then asked if that affected his hunger and desire, and Van Gaal replied: “No, because I don’t want to finish my career with the club sacking me.
“That would be a great disappointment for me, to say goodbye to the football world by being fired.
“I think my honour is much more pressure for me than the pressure of the media and the fans.”
United fans have certainly been among the critics of the playing style, with some voicing their frustration at matches with boos and shouts of “attack, attack, attack”.
And while questioning what he could lose at this stage of his career, Van Gaal did say: “If I lose the confidence of the fans, that for me would be very sad.”
Asked about the supporter disgruntlement and whether he felt the fans were still with him, Van Gaal called for belief from the stands.
“It’s always like that when you lose. Then fans have to prove their belief again,” he said.
“The board can see what you can do as a manager in practice but the fans cannot see that, so when you lose you need the belief of the fans.
“It is a question for the fans, not the manager.”
Van Gaal has no doubt United need to start winning and is prioritising points above performances at the moment.
Asked if United needed to deliver a display on Saturday to lift the crowd, he said: “We need that maybe, but for me it is more important that we win.”
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