English Premiership

Van Gaal defiant as Mourinho speculation mounts

2016-05-22 07:53
Louis van Gaal (TEAMtalk)

London - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal defended his achievements after reports that Jose Mourinho is poised to replace him overshadowed his side's FA Cup triumph against Crystal Palace.

A memorable extra-time winner by Jesse Lingard brought United a 2-1 victory at Wembley on Saturday, ending the club's 12-year wait for a record-equalling 12th FA Cup, but within minutes of the final whistle, reports were circulating that Mourinho's appointment is imminent.

Van Gaal refused to discuss the matter, telling reporters "I don't want to talk about leaving the club", but argued that despite United's failure to qualify for the Champions League, he had performed well in the circumstances.

When asked if he had established a platform for future success, he replied: "Of course. I have said when I started that we are in a process of transition.

"That I have already said a lot of times in press conferences, so I repeat myself. I have to refresh my squad and I have done it.

"In spite of the many injuries this season, we are still in the race (for fourth place) and now we have lifted the cup. That's a title, and it was three years ago that United (last) had a title.

"I'm very proud that I'm the first manager after the period of Sir Alex Ferguson (to win a trophy). I have made a picture with him, because that's history."

The BBC reported that Mourinho, sacked by Chelsea in December, would be officially announced as United manager early next week.

Asked if he expected to keep his job, Van Gaal gestured to the FA Cup trophy, which was sitting on a table in front of him, and said: "I show you the cup and I don't discuss it with my friends of the media, who already sacked me for six months.

"Which manager can do that, what I have done?"

Van Gaal departed the press conference room in sarcastic fashion, hoisting the cup aloft and saying: "Thank you for the congratulations."

The speculation about Van Gaal's position took the gloss off a famous day for United and in particular 23-year-old Lingard, the academy graduate, who has forced his way into the starting XI following several loan spells.

The winger settled an affair that his side had shaded in the 110th minute, fizzing a right-foot volley into the top-left corner shortly after United centre-back Chris Smalling had been sent off for two bookable offences.

Substitute Jason Puncheon had put Palace ahead in the 78th minute, slamming the ball past David de Gea from a narrow angle, but United equalised within three minutes as Marouane Fellaini chested down skipper Wayne Rooney's cross for Juan Mata to volley home.

Palace manager Alan Pardew tasted defeat in an FA Cup final for the third time, having been on the losing team when United beat the south London club in a replay in 1990 and overseen West Ham United's loss on penalties to Liverpool in 2006.

He praised his players for playing with "heart and passion" and said that the club had conducted itself with "dignity".

His chief complaint centred around referee Mark Clattenburg's decision to award a first-half free-kick for a foul on Connor Wickham by Smalling, rather than play advantage and allow the striker to race into the box with the ball.

"I was really disappointed with the Connor decision in particular," Pardew said.

"Because you could see he was going to get up first and obviously the advantage was really with us. He had a free pass to Yala (Yannick Bolasie) for a tap-in. To be pulled back was really harsh."

Pardew celebrated Puncheon's opener by gyrating on the touchline and he said afterwards that he had got carried away in the moment.

"I enjoyed that moment," he said. "In a cup final, as a manager it's difficult to enjoy moments. Forgive me my dance. It's just because I enjoyed it."

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