London: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has urged the club's fans to lower their expectations as competition in the English Premier League (EPL) and in European tournaments has become tougher since the heady days of Alex Ferguson.
Louis van Gaal
Van Gaal has faced criticism for Manchester United's perceived 'boring' style this season and has been the target of a fans' backlash after the former EPL winners made an early exit from the Champions League.
But the former Barcelona manager asserted that the Old Trafford faithful should realise that the days when the club won the treble under Ferguson are long gone and Manchester United are no longer the formidable force they once were.
"The problem is that we have to meet the expectations. And the expectations at a club like this are very high. But you have to analyse the club now. You cannot compare it with five or 10 years ago, because there is an evolution in European football. They say Manchester United has to win but that is the past," the former Netherlands coach was quoted as saying by the British media.
"Now we have much more clubs who have money and also the structure and are able to win something. Next year, all the clubs in the Premier League have a bigger budget than most in Europe. That makes a big difference. Every club can also buy a player. You think Manchester United has a lot of money - that is true. But other clubs are asking for much more from us than from Bournemouth," he added.
"The difference is not so big any more. The confirmation is every week. The bottom clubs can beat the top teams. There is no other league where that happens as often as it does in the Premier League. It is very difficult for a Premier League club to match with the other leagues in the Champions League. It was not so easy for all the clubs to qualify themselves."
Van Gaal, who has spent 250 million pounds on new players during his 18 months in charge at Old Trafford, insisted that the club is going through a re-building phase and is determined to take positives from the midweek defeat by Wolfsburg when Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage.
"There were a lot of positives but when people don't want to see them it's not my problem. I didn't hear anything positive said of Guillermo Varela or Campbell Borthwick-Jackson," he said.
"We had Memphis, 21, Lingard, 22, Martial, 19, in attack and still we could hurt the No. 2 club in Germany. We could have won the game."
The 64-year-old Dutchman scoffed at suggestions that the only way to make up for being eliminated from the Champions League was to claim the EPL title.
"No. It is difficult. You want to raise the expectations. For the fans it shall be like that. But I want to manage the expectation. It is not as easy as everybody thinks. We live now. It is not only difficult for Manchester United. It is also difficult for Manchester City and Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea or Leicester," he said.
"I work hard, my players work hard, now we are in the Europa League and we have to work hard to win that. That is not easy. But nobody hears that - they don't want to hear me."
The former Bayern Munich manager also insisted that he is still the right man for the job, his players are behind him and his methods and progress is being made.
"It is more of a problem in the outside world than inside the club. No, I don't have any doubts about my ability. I have read that I am 64 and I am too old. But only last year I was good enough to get Holland to third place at the World Cup.
"I read the same things - that my touch had gone - 20 years ago when I was at Barcelona and we went out at the group stage but we went on to win La Liga. It is always like that. I cannot change that. I cannot change what is in people's mind. I can only say the facts," van Gaal said.
"The facts are this - we are out of the group stage and, yes, I am very sorry. But I have done everything I could. My players have done everything they could. My board, I think, have also done everything," he added.