Louis van Gaal Talks Criticism, Jose Mourinho, More in 'Independent' Interview

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal looks at the sky as hail begins to fall after his team's 3-0 win in the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Stoke at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal opened up in an interview with Mark Ogden of the Independent on Thursday.

The Dutchman remains under fire as the club continue an underwhelming campaign. Many have speculated that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will take over as the Red Devils' manager, and the Independent's Mark Critchley reported the framework may be in place for a three-year deal for Mourinho to head to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal brushed aside the speculation, telling Ogden he doesn't know whether United have contacted Mourinho:

I can only say that I have spoken with [United's executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward and I cannot imagine that they have spoken with each other. I think that if they speak with another manager, they would tell me because our relationship is like that. But I think that, if they want to change, they have to prepare themselves. That is also a professional attitude, in my opinion.

Earlier in the week, he criticized a reporter who asked him about United potentially looking for a replacement, per the Guardian:

In addition to Manchester United being all but out of the Premier League title race, the club's playing style has been a point of contention among many supporters. According to WhoScored.com, United have the highest possession of any team in the league (55.8 percent) but have scored only 32 goals, tied for ninth.

"I am used to a lot of criticism," Van Gaal said. "My performances in the media are also provocative, but I have had to cope with the criticism from the first time I was a coach. For me, it is not any more stress or bother to have to deal with it."

He added that he tries to ensure he is the lightning rod for any criticism, which helps keep the spotlight off his players.

One of the hallmarks of Van Gaal's managerial career has been his nurturing of young talent. Particularly during his past stints at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he has helped bring through a number of promising stars who became top talents.

At United, midfielder Jesse Lingard has been one of Van Gaal's biggest success stories, while left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is an emerging talent. Forward Anthony Martial has also exceeded anybody's expectations, which is almost certainly thanks to Van Gaal's tutelage.

Looking forward, Van Gaal wants the next generation of United players to be one of his measures of success with the club:

I hope people will look back in the future and talk of the young players as my legacy, but you can never tell. The next manager would also have to show the confidence in the younger players. So I cannot judge. If United, after I retire, hire a manager who does not give the benefit of the doubt to youngsters, it shall be very difficult.

That last part seems like a veiled criticism of Mourinho, who has relied on his clubs' senior players. One of his downfalls at Chelsea was his offloading of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, both of whom have gone on to star with different clubs.

Should Mourinho replace Van Gaal, it would be interesting to see how he handles Lingard, Martial and Borthwick-Jackson, among others.

Whenever Van Gaal leaves United, it will likely be a few years before the Red Devils realize his impact on the club.