Louis van Gaal appeared to admit that his time as Manchester United manager had come to an end after telling a news reporter ‘It’s over’ as he left London on Sunday.
Despite winning the FA Cup with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley on Saturday – courtesy of Jesse Lingard’s sensational volley – doubts over the Dutchman’s future were again raised immediately after the final.
Sky Sports’ James Cooper was outside the team’s Hilton hotel in central London on Sunday as they prepared to return to Manchester, reporting that Van Gaal had responded to a request for comment by saying: ‘No, no. It’s over!’.
The reporter acknowledged that these comments carried ‘a touch of ambiguity’, but believes they indicated that the manager, who looked ‘slightly awkward and upset’, is no longer Manchester United manager.
Manchester United have since told Sky Sports that Van Gaal was referring to it being the end of the season, when he said ‘it’s over.’
Van Gaal arrived back in Manchester by train with his wife Truus and posed for pictures with fans at Stockport station.
Reports in Spain and on the BBC claimed on Saturday that former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho would be taking over next season, although they remained unconfirmed by the club.
Mourinho was pictured leaving his London home on Sunday after watching David Haye destroy Arnold Gjergjaj in their heavyweight boxing clash at the O2 Arena on Saturday evening.
Super agent, and close friend, Jorges Mendes will arrive in England on Tuesday to conclude the deal for his Portuguese client.
Van Gaal appears to have paid the price for a disappointing season that, despite winning a first piece of Silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, saw United miss out on Champions League qualification amid criticism of the manager’s defensive tactics.
The 64-year-old refused to discuss his future following the Wembley win, instead saying; ‘I show you the FA Cup and I don’t discuss it with my friends of the media who have already sacked me for six months.
‘Which manager can do what I have done? I don’t want to talk about leaving the club.’
However, Van Gaal’s press conference sounded like a valedictory justification of his two years at the club. ‘We showed the same spirit we have shown all the way to the final and when you do that, you can be very proud as Manchester United manager and as fan when you receive the Cup,’ he said.
‘I have said when I started as a manager that we are in a process on transition. I have to refresh my squad and I’ve done it and despite the many injuries this season, we are still in the race and now we have lifted the Cup.
‘That’s a title. And it is three years since United had a title. And I’m very proud that I am the first manager after the period of Sir Alex Ferguson to win a trophy. I have made a picture with him today because that’s history.’
And he indicated that he had been held back during his two years at United by the inability to land transfer targets and bad luck with injuries.
‘Last season I asked for players but you don’t think the players I asked for came. It is not so easy when United can’t afford players.
‘When United is coming the price is double, much more than double. Then you have to realise whether you do that or not. Because the policy of this club is to play with youth players and that we have also done that.
‘I need the players that I have asked for and you know that I said I want creative fast wingers and we didn’t do that because it was not possible. But you are thinking that everything is possible in Manchester United. But, no, I’m sorry it is not like that.
‘When you see our season with 14 injuries in the months of November and December and also all the fullbacks were injured, how can you solve that?
‘You cannot solve that. And I have taken the risk not to get a player, because I have taken Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
‘I have taken the risk and now I ca be happy because we have won something it is a very difficult decision to do that, because I gambled with youngsters but I thought we need the speed of the youngsters.’
Asked why the board had not backed him publicly through the season, Van Gaal laughed and said: ‘You would have followed the board?’
And as a parting shot, in a press conference dominated by his future, he said sarcastically: ‘Thank you for the congratulations.’