Louis van Gaal urges Manchester United players to be 'horny' for Europa League tie with Midtjylland

Manchester United must overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit when they entertain the Danish side at Old Trafford on Thursday

It was one of those “lost in translation” moments that sometimes befall Louis van Gaal, but while the Manchester United manager may have erroneously urged his players to get “horny” in order to overcome Europa League opponents FC Midtjylland, there can be no misunderstanding of the job requirements at Old Trafford.

Having suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats of the club’s 60-year European history against the Danish champions in Central Jutland last Thursday, Van Gaal and his players must overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last 16 of a competition that nobody at United particularly wants to be in.

Injuries continue to bite and Van Gaal’s squad will once again be without the services of Wayne Rooney, David de Gea, Marcos Rojo and several others, but United’s Dutch manager knows precisely what his team require to eliminate Midtjylland.

“Desire, hunger and, a lot of times, I use the word ‘horny’,” Van Gaal said, seemingly searching for the Dutch translation of passion. 

When asked how the dressing-room reacted to such instructions from Van Gaal, Juan Mata, sat alongside his manager, shook his head in bemusement as laughter permeated the press conference, admitting, “Just the same as you guys.”

Having avoided further humiliation this week by comfortably overcoming League One Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup on Monday, Van Gaal goes into tonight’s game with the scrutiny over his position alleviated slightly by a place in the quarter-finals.

Failure to progress in the Europa League, which arguably offers United their best hope of Champions League qualification this season, would inevitably turn the screw on Van Gaal ahead of two difficult home fixtures against Arsenal and Watford in the coming week, but despite Midtjylland’s lack of pedigree, Van Gaal insists they are a team who must be respected. “I was not a great player, as you know, but when I played in full stadiums I was always at my best,” Van Gaal said, when referring to the sense of occasion for Midtjylland at Old Trafford. “It is not a good signal for Manchester United.

“Most of the players shall be excited and it will be the match of their lives for most of them. It’s always the reason I say that top teams have to cope with the resistance of their opponent.

“I know that everybody is thinking Manchester United have to win against Midtjylland and that is because of the status of this club, but I have already said you have to analyse the opposition. 

“They have a very good organisation, very detailed, and the players want to perform. When I see the data of Midtjylland they have always won against English opponents. Everyone thinks it’s nothing, but you have to analyse every opponent on their own qualities and I think they have a lot of qualities.”

Praising the qualities of a club formed just three months before United won the Treble in 1999 will do little to appease those supporters who turned on Van Gaal and some players following last week’s defeat in Denmark. Mata bore the brunt of the criticism having been accused of gifting Midtjylland their winner following a weak tackle on the edge of the penalty area, but the Spaniard insists he accepts the condemnation of supporters after such a poor result.

“It’s something you have to handle playing for such a club,” Mata said. “No one knows better than myself how I played, if we have done good or bad.

“I was very sad about the result and for the fans, and not because I’ve been criticised. We are the ones that we blame. We want the best for the supporters.”

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