Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal doesn't believe he'll automatically be sacked if the Red Devils fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Per Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News, predecessor David Moyes was sacked the moment United were mathematically eliminated from the race to qualify for the UEFA Champions league, and many fans and pundits think a similar fate is in order for Van Gaal.
But when the Dutchman was asked whether he believes that's what will happen at the pre-Manchester derby press conference, he pointed to his contract and reminded reporters they've been writing he would be sacked for months, via Dawson:
I don’t discuss that with you. Why do I have to discuss that with you?
So every day when we are losing or we are out of the Euro League or another league then you put the question. But why? I have a three-year contract and the process is three years.
For four months you are writing that I shall be sacked, I have read that. Four months already.
United and City will meet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday with both clubs in the middle of a race for the fourth and final Champions League ticket. City sit four points ahead of their rivals, with West Ham United sandwiched in between.
The Citizens have won just once in their last five Premier League outings, but United haven't fared much better, and momentum isn't with either side.
A win is a must for both teams, but more so for United, who would face a seven-point gap to fourth place should they lose. Van Gaal agreed Champions League qualification would be virtually impossible if that happened:
We are now four points behind I think so you have to win, otherwise the gap is bigger and bigger and the matches that you have to play are not so big.
I think then it is seven points and we have to play eight matches maybe, then it’s very sharp to recover from that gap. It is still possible but I think it’s difficult then because West Ham United is also in front so it is not only City but West Ham United.
But while fans will agree with that, they might be shocked to hear Van Gaal doesn't think that could lead to his exit. Per Dawson, there has been speculation over whether former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will become United's next manager for months, but Van Gaal believes there won't be a new manager anytime soon.
The criticism has been mounting throughout the season, and after United bowed out of the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Liverpool on Thursday, pundits once again took aim. Owen Gibson of the Guardian didn't understand his tactics:
Watching that United side, still impossible to work out what LvG is up to. Seems to have baffled himself. Not that he'd ever admit it.— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) March 17, 2016
Van Gaal admitted the club's ambitions for this season―such as finishing in the top three―are next to impossible to achieve at this point, but he believes fans and pundits should look further than that:
Our purpose was to reach the top three I think because we want to do it better than last year.
But then you have to analyse I think. You don’t have to be agreed with me, but then you have to analyse the circumstances. How I have to work.
I have said that in all my press conferences and I don’t repeat myself anymore. You are repeating by always putting to me the same question when I am losing or when I’m out of the Europa League then I get these questions.
Van Gaal's exit should United fail to qualify for the Champions League feels like a foregone conclusion, but the Dutchman doesn't appear to agree with that assessment. He's clearly annoyed with reporters constantly asking him about his future, and that likely won't change anytime soon.
The criticism could reach a crescendo if United lose against an out-of-form City side on Sunday, a result that would just about kill their chances of a top-four finish.