What Sir Alex Ferguson actually said following Manchester United's defeat to Southampton

Louis van Gaal is on the brink following yesterday's home defeat

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The Independent Football

As Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United succumbed to defeat following another drab, dismal home display, much was made of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction, who was watching on from the director’s box.

After debutant Charlie Austin gave the visiting Southampton a late lead, the retired Scotsman leaned over to his companion next to him and appeared to pass comment on his old side’s performance.

Many onlookers and amateur lip-readers among United’s support drew the same conclusion from the short clip, believing that Ferguson had angrily said, “He’s gone”, a reference to Van Gaal.

However, that appears to be wishful thinking.

According to Jessica Rees, a lip-reader for 42 years who has worked with the police and Crown Prosecution Service, Ferguson’s friend begins to say “Do you think…”, with his hand covering his mouth and obscuring the rest of the question.

"He is mumbling and it is not very clear from here but Sir Alex Ferguson replies "Let's hope so!", Mrs Rees told the Mirror. "His tone is curt and dismissive, very much so."

The 74-year-old left Old Trafford dugout in 2013, ending a 26-year spell in charge and selecting David Moyes as his successor.

Van Gaal was subsequently appointed the following summer, after a season of underachievement.

The Dutchman achieved the bare minimum of Champions League qualification last term but, following months of uninspiring football and a downturn in results, he is now the favourite among several bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager sacked.