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Speculation riles Van Gaal as Man United draw

Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal (L) shakes hands with Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink after an English Premier League football match at Stamford Bridge in London on February 7, 2016

Manchester United’s manager Louis van Gaal (L) shakes hands with Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink after an English Premier League football match at Stamford Bridge in London on February 7, 2016

LONDON, February 8 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal angrily derided the latest reports about his future after his team were pegged back in injury time in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

Diego Costa equalised for Chelsea in the 91st minute at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, cancelling out Jesse Lingard’s opener and leaving United six points below the Champions League places in the Premier League.

Reports emerged on Friday that United have approached ex-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to succeed Van Gaal, but the Dutchman attempted to slap down a journalist who raised the matter at his post-match press conference.

When it was put to him that United have not publicly denied the reports, Van Gaal replied: “Why do they have to deny? I don’t interfere neither. So why does the club have to deny that, when you are creating stories?

“You haven’t spoken with (executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward or (owners) the Glazers, and you are inventing a story.

“And then I have to answer that question. I don’t answer this question and I shall repeat myself every week.”

Returning to a previously expressed complaint about the effect the speculation about his future has had on his family, Van Gaal added: “Now I have to say that you are getting the sack tomorrow, eh?

“What is your name? Then I can announce the name also. Look at your wife, maybe you have children, or a nephew or something like that.”

United’s performance at Chelsea was in keeping with the recent improvement that has seen them record comfortable wins over Derby County and Stoke City.

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They were good value for the lead procured by Lingard’s 61st-minute strike — a sharp turn and shot after Wayne Rooney had taken the sting out of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s left-wing cross — but Van Gaal was annoyed that they could not close the game out.

– ‘We must start winning’ –

“That’s why I’m frustrated and my players are frustrated,” he said.

“When you are playing like we have played today (Sunday) and you are not making the gap smaller, you can say it’s misfortune, but it’s not the first time that it’s overcoming us.

“Because Newcastle United, for example, also (scored) in extra time (in last month’s 3-3 draw). So we have to do that better. We have to improve in that way.

“But I’m happy with the performance. I think it was not a boring match so for the third time in a row it was sparkling. So I hope also to get the support of the media this week.”

Chelsea felt that they should have been awarded a first-half penalty when John Terry’s shot struck Daley Blind’s elbow, but replays showed that the Dutch defender’s arm had been clamped to his chest.

United goalkeeper David de Gea initially thwarted Chelsea’s quest for an equaliser, Van Gaal hailing his “remarkable” saves from Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas, only for Costa to strike at the death.

Costa’s goal, a tap-in after Borthwick-Jackson inadvertently steered Fabregas’s through-ball into his path, extended interim manager Guus Hiddink’s unbeaten run to 10 matches since he succeeded the sacked Mourinho in late December.

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But Chelsea have won only two of the eight league games they have played since Hiddink came in and with 17 points separating the champions from the top four, he was fatalistic about his side’s chances of Champions League qualification.

“I said before when we were one point from the relegation zone, of course our target must still be the fourth place for Champions League, but at that moment I also said we have to start winning,” Hiddink said.

“We are unbeaten, but if you want to get into fourth place, you must have your victories. We have too many draws to get to fourth place. It’s difficult.

“Mathematically it might be possible, but we must start winning again.”

Chelsea’s French centre-back Kurt Zouma will undergo scans on Monday after being stretchered off with what Hiddink feared was a “very bad” hyperextended right knee.

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