Manchester United’s former manager Louis Van Gaal has opened up about what happened when he left the club.
The 68-year-old managed the Red Devils for two seasons before being sacked by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward just hours after lifting the FA Cup following a 2-1 extra time win against Crystal Palace.
United had failed to qualify for Champions League football that season, finishing fifth in the Premier League on goal difference behind neighbours Manchester City.
The Reds had been knocked out of the 2015/16 Champions League at the group stage and were then ousted out of the Europa League at the Round of 16 stage by Liverpool.
‘You know, what I achieved at Man United I consider the biggest performance in my entire career’ Van Gaal told The Mirror.
‘Bigger than any other trophy or what I did with Holland in the World Cup in Brazil. And, for more than one reason, I see my work at United as bigger than anything else.’
‘We won the FA Cup with 10 men in extra-time at Wembley. The FA Cup is the most prestigious national cup competition in the world, so I was immensely proud to win that.’
The Dutchman was surprised an upset by his sacking by the man he described recently as an ‘evil genius’.
‘The hardest thing was trying to survive as Manchester United’s manager when I had my head in a noose for six months.’
‘From January until the end of the season, my wife Truus warned me. She is a woman – and a woman has an instinct for things like this.’
‘I did not see what Woodward was up to, but women have different qualities than men. I really did not sense that they were plotting something.
‘I was wholly convinced that I’d be able to see out my contract and have a third season at United. And it was the biggest surprise of my life when Woodward sacked me.’
Van Gaal also explained why he was determined to receive the compensation due to him after the sacking, believed to be £8 million.
‘I had faced resistance internally at other clubs and federations before. But that was nothing compared to what I had to put up with at Man United.’
‘At Barcelona, I walked away because I was loyal to the president. I waved away £5m. But my principles were more important at United – I had achieved so much there.’
Portuguese coach José Mourinho, who replaced Van Gaal, was in secret talks with Woodward to take over the role for months, something for which the Dutchman is yet to forgive his former protege.
‘In my opinion, it should be Mourinho who should speak up about what happened – if he would be prepared to do so.’
‘But Mourinho does not have to call me any more. I was left with my head in a noose, waiting to be hanged all that time after January.’
Despite everything, including reports of collapsed relationships with players such as David de Gea and Angel di Maria, the Dutchman maintains he kept the support of the team and expresses nothing but respect for those players, the fans and the club.
‘I still kept the trust of the players, so I am proud. It was a massive achievement that year.’
‘Manchester United is by far the most beautiful, the best and most challenging club in England. That is why I chose United.’
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