It further undermines the prestige of the self-styled “biggest club in the world”, casts additional doubt on Van Gaal's tenure at Old Trafford and is particularly pertinent given that United's next two games are against teams they would previously have expected to swat away.
On Monday night they visit League One Shrewsbury in a potential banana-skin fifth-round FA Cup tie; on Thursday they face the return leg of their Europa League tie against Danish minnows Midtjylland, with United looking to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat. Both opponents will be hoping to prove Van Gaal's assertion.
Asked if United no longer benefited from the fear factor, the Dutchman confessed: “When you see the last two games [defeats to Sunderland and Midtjylland] it is maybe like that.”
Trying to remain positive, he added: “We have to make teams fear us again. We lost my first home game - against Swansea City - and people said the same but we recovered and we ended last season with a very good home record. We can do that again, but it is a question of winning matches in a row now.”
With 14 players injured or ill and three matches to come in a week - United also play Arsenal at home in the Premier League next Sunday - getting any kind of run together will be difficult.
Van Gaal said he expected Shrewsbury to adopt the same tactics that proved so successful for Midtjylland and which his side had little answer to.
“I have told the players already it will be difficult to bounce back because you cannot continue losing games,” he said. “The question is how we can lift ourselves for the FA Cup because Shrewsbury Town will also fight for the second balls and play direct and we have to cope with that.
“But we also have to keep the ball better and not give away unnecessary goals, because Midtjylland's first was unnecessary and we could have won that duel much more easily for their second goal.”
When asked if he thought Shrewsbury might actually be overconfident when taking on United tonight, Van Gaal replied: “I hope so because then it is a benefit for us.”
Original source: ‘They will learn to fear Man United again’