Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has described rumours linking Jose Mourinho to his position as "ridiculous" and "an absolute scandal."
That's according to the David McDonnell of the Mirror, who reported the 64-year-old's outburst came to Dutch TV channel RTL7 in the wake of United's 5-1 win over FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
As the report noted, Van Gaal has been under severe pressure at Old Trafford with Mourinho repeatedly tipped to take over in the hot seat should the Dutchman be relieved of his duties. He said:
Every day I am preventing the players from being under pressure. Because every arrow is shot at me, not one at the players.
It is all aimed at me. In a bizarre way this situation with me has an advantage for the players. I can see that they are not being criticized. Only me.
He [Mourinho] has said things a number of times with a lot of words. But he does not have to tell me anything. I find the whole thing ridiculous!
No, I don’t want United to do something either. I don’t even want them to react to things which I read in the media or which are being created. We, the club and I, are not going to help the media right now by denying things.
I think what is happening is an absolute scandal!
Comfortable wins over Shrewsbury Town and then Midtjylland have slightly eased the pressure on the beleaguered boss. Per BT Sport Football, Memphis Depay stood out in a strong United performance on Thursday:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
Outrageous nutmeg from @Memphis 🔥#UEL #MUFC https://t.co/0njX5tqFhT2016-2-25 21:52:33
As Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News noted, however, the quality of the opposition should be taken into account:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
Memphis - and #mufc - should be ridiculing a team like Midtjylland. Van Gaal right to remind him Arsenal is 'another level'. #mufc2016-2-26 09:16:53
Indeed, with Shrewsbury struggling in League One and Danish side Midtjylland having not played since early December, that relaxation is somewhat mitigated.
The Red Devils are still off the pace in the Premier League in fifth, and that could get worse when Arsenal visit Old Trafford on Sunday—as could the pressure on their manager.
Per the Press Association (h/t the Daily Mail), Van Gaal is the bookmakers' favourite to be the next Premier League manager to be fired or resign from their post, while in some cases Mourinho "is as short as 1-6" to replace him.
Luckhurst believes it's clear executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward wants to recruit the Special One:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
Patent Woodward wants Mourinho to manage #mufc. Egos at the club prohibiting necessary change and it's up to Woodward to shatter them.2016-2-19 19:48:00
Barring a dramatic and sustained turnaround in both United's results and level of performance for the remainder of the season, Van Gaal's departure in the summer, if not earlier, looks almost inevitable, and with few other quality managerial options available, Mourinho is the obvious candidate to step in at United.
The Red Devils have shown their talent in fits and starts this season—particularly since the turn of the year with their impressive performance against Stoke City and comfortable win over Derby County—but they're still a long way from where they should be.
Until they can show their abilities consistently, Mourinho will continue to be linked with Van Gaal's job.