The first signs of Louis van Gaal's weakened position at Manchester United emerged today, as two briefings to journalists made it clear that the Dutch manager enjoys less committed support from the board than in his first season.
After three transfer windows, it was made clear that similar funds for rebuilding would not be provided in future transfer windows. Van Gaal has spent a quarter of a billion pounds to overhaul the squad left by Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, and is now expected to make a success of it on the pitch.
United finished fourth last season, scraping into the Champions League group stages having navigated a favourable tie against Club Brugge in the qualifying round. With two victories, a draw and a defeat in the Premier League, the unconvincing approach to matches from last season does not appear to have been fixed yet.
Van Gaal, according to some sources, is happy with the squad he has been given. One article in the Guardian states:
While Van Gaal failed to land the elite attacker he had targeted - with Barcelona's Neymar and Real Madrid's Gareth Bale topping his list of targets - it is understood the manager is particularly content with this summer. The squad was strengthened at right-back, central midfield and in attack, with six new players coming in - Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian, Sergio Romero and Anthony Martial.
Now he is content, he must deliver. What is more worrying for Van Gaal is a story that has clearly been briefed from a source at Old Trafford, making it obvious that the major rounds of changes have taken place. They have also squarely blamed Van Gaal for the lack of a new central defender. This is from the Daily Star - not the most reliable paper, but this appears to have come from inside the club:
"The club looked at who from Real Madrid we wanted and might be able to get" But it's more than we're going to do in future windows, that's for sure. Six players is a lot - it's certainly more than the three or four we've done in previous windows."
United, meanwhile, have revealed that no centre back has been signed because Van Gaal made Sergio Ramos his one and only target.
Fans are upset that United have not strengthened their back four, but it is understood Van Gaal is confident with what he's got.
The club source added: "The club looked at who from Real Madrid we wanted and might be able to get.
"Louis' view was that there was no other central defender he wanted other than Ramos. There was no second choice, so we didn't go for another one. Louis feels he has enough defenders."
It seems that United are now making it obvious they have done all they could for Van Gaal, distancing themselves from the failed bids for Antoine Griezmann and Marco Reus. The message is obvious - start winning, we've done enough for you. Which might not be a terrible worry for Van Gaal yet, but it is a noticeable shift in how forthcoming they were with their support last season.