By North-west correspondent Tony Hughes
Louis van Gaal has claimed Manchester United fans are leaving Old Trafford early because of the traffic – not because they are bored with what they are seeing.
Scores of United fans streamed out of the stadium on Saturday night, moments before Wayne Rooney’s 93rd-minute penalty clinched a 1-0 FA Cup win over League One Sheffield United 1-0.
Paul Scholes laid into Van Gaal after the match and claimed everyone at Old Trafford looked “bored” by what they had witnessed and that he would have been “depressed” for days afterwards if he had been part of such a dreary performance.
But ahead of United’s Premier League trip to Newcastle on Tuesday night, Van Gaal responded to the criticism of his approach by blaming the mass exodus on the build-up of traffic around Old Trafford.
Van Gaal, who also admitted some United fans left early because they did not think their team would score, said at his media conference on Monday afternoon: “What do I do now? React to Paul Scholes? You want that?
“They [the fans] are thinking that we could not score, and maybe because of the traffic they decide to leave a few minutes earlier.
“There are many reasons to leave the stadium. When I was looking at matches to analyse our opponents, then I would leave the stadium five minutes before.
“The fans support our team. It’s not an easy time now. How many stadiums were like ours, full?
“You can mention how they leave, but you can also mention how they come to the stadium to watch this FA Cup match.”
Van Gaal acknowledged the frustration of United fans, who cheered ironically in the 65th minute when their side managed a first real effort on goal.
“I can understand that, because it was an effect that we were not shooting too much and not able to shoot at goal too much,” said the United boss. “That they were ironic, I can imagine.”
United’s negative style was pilloried by their own fans as well as ex-players and pundits, but Van Gaal said Sheffield United’s defensive approach made it harder for his players to break them down.
“You are always taking into account how your opponent is playing,” explained the Dutchman. “Ours was defending, with players behind the ball, so it’s not easy.
“That’s what is nice about the FA Cup. The lower level clubs give everything to make a result. It’s why everybody looks at this cup.
“It’s a process I’ve said that many, many times. We have ups and downs, but now we’ve won twice in a row and maybe it’ll give us a boost.”