Louis van Gaal took exception to a reporter raising Rio Ferdinand's damning remarks on Manchester United after their 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Thursday, a result that leaves the Red Devils staring at the Europa League exit door.
Van Gaal admitted his players "could not cope" with Liverpool on the night but reacted angrily when the former United centre-back's comments were put to him, per MailOnline's Daniel Sandford:
"Is it important what Rio Ferdinand is saying, is that important to you? You don't give your opinion and then you give Rio Ferdinand's opinion—that is very strong of you."
Ferdinand was scathing in his assessment of United's performance on BT Sport, and he suggested the players that Van Gaal has let go in his Old Trafford tenure might be better than those currently in the squad, per the Daily Mail's Dominic King:
I wouldn’t want to be a player walking past the away fans tonight because they will get abused and rightly so. Liverpool deserve the credit because they should have had three or four. They played like United played back in the day. They were on the front foot from the word go and overran United across the park.
I see what’s happening at Anfield. Klopp says "jump" and Liverpool say "how high?" I don’t sense that’s happening at United. I was thinking "do these players even know they are playing at Anfield? Is it filtering through to those United players?"
I've written down a list of players. [Angel] Di Maria, Nani, [Patrice] Evra, [Danny] Welbeck, Chicharito, [Jonny] Evans, [Darren] Fletcher, Rafael, [Shinji] Kagawa. I could go on. Are they worse than the players out there? They are better than that team there—that’s the problem.
As Ferdinand noted, United could have lost by a much wider margin to a Liverpool side that put in a good performance in front of their supporters.
Were it not for the heroics of David De Gea in the United goal, the tie would virtually be over already, per sports presenter Mark Pougatch:
Mark Pougatch @markpougatch
If it weren't for De Gea it would've been good night Vienna. Man Utd were abysmal. But an early goal for them at OT & it could all change2016-3-10 22:09:34
The superlative Spaniard made fine saves from Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne to keep United in touch.
But he was powerless to save Sturridge's excellent first-half penalty—conceded when Memphis Depay was adjudged to have fouled Clyne in the area—although he did get a touch on it, per a Liverpool fan account:
Or when Roberto Firmino took full advantage of a shocking clearance from Michael Carrick, who was playing in a makeshift centre-back role, per BT Sport Football:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
.@LFC capitalise on Carrick's defensive blunder as @Roberto_Firmino taps in from close-range. #LFCvMUFC #UEL https://t.co/eXgtnoXK0T2016-3-10 21:38:42
The defeat was a huge blow to Van Gaal, who has seen his side now fall to successive losses after a run of four wins on the bounce.
And Van Gaal does seem to be running out of trump cards. If United are knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham United on Sunday and fail to turn their Europa League tie around at Old Trafford next Thursday, that will effectively be it for the Red Devils' season.
Their chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League by finishing in the Premier League's top four are very slim and Van Gaal continues to feel the wrath of former players and fans.
It is a big week for the United manager and his side, and if there is not a vast improvement on Thursday's performance in the Manchester outfit's next two games then it could be the end for Van Gaal at Old Trafford.