Louis van Gaal insists he enjoys a "very good" relationship with Ryan Giggs, his assistant manager at Manchester United, after being forced to reject suggestions of a rift following the Welshman's restrained celebrations in the wake of Ashley Young's late winning goal at Newcastle on Wednesday.
The former United midfielder Paul Scholes claimed ahead of the game that he doubted Giggs would wait until the end of his three-year contract as Van Gaal's assistant before becoming a manager. The 41-year-old's stony-faced reaction to Van Gaal's animated celebration of Young's goal - when he moved to pat Giggs on the cheek - then appeared to give credence to rumours of his frustration alongside the Dutchman at Old Trafford.
Video footage of Van Gaal and Giggs's contrasting reaction to the goal, and the bizarre moment when the manager raised his fist towards Giggs's face, was widely circulated on the internet yesterday (Thursday), sparking speculation about their working relationship.
Having struggled to embrace David Moyes's tactical approach as manager during his spell as player-coach during the Scot's unsuccessful 11-month reign last season, similar suggestions of Giggs's disillusionment with Van Gaal's philosophy have emerged in recent weeks.
When asked about the footage of Giggs's reaction to Young's 88th-minute goal at St James' Park, which maintained United's position in the top four, Van Gaal responded sarcastically before insisting he had no concerns over his relationship with Giggs.
"I cannot answer that because I want to have those rumours," Van Gaal said. "No, we have a very bad relationship." When asked whether he was being serious, Van Gaal said sarcastically: "We have very bad relationship. I am very irritated because of this question. Everyone can see we have a very good relationship. We work very hard together, not only Ryan Giggs, but all the staff and players. It is a way of suggesting things, but I am very irritated and I take this message against the media. I am not pleased."
Despite the suggestions of discontent, Giggs has been handed a key role by Van Gaal in terms of briefing the players on the opposition and delivering team talks on numerous occasions. Giggs is known to have been hugely impressed by Van Gaal when meeting the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach for the first time in Amsterdam last May, when the Dutchman offered the former United winger a senior coaching role.
With Van Gaal's style of play leading to accusations of overcaution and negativity from former players and supporters alike, claims of Giggs being concerned by the unadventurous approach have emerged, although Giggs himself has remained a visible figure on the training ground and in the dugout alongside the manager.
With Giggs having taken charge of United for four games in a caretaker capacity last season following the sacking of Moyes, Scholes, who worked on Giggs's coaching team during that period, has claimed that his close friend is unlikely to wait patiently for the chance to manage on his own.
"There's no doubt, he had that little taste of it for the last three weeks of last year and he definitely wants to be a manager," Scholes said. "You can see that. Over the next two or three years, will he have the patience to be a No?2 for that long? I'm not sure he will." Giggs has admitted in the past that his long-term ambition is to manage United, with many regarding his spell as Van Gaal's assistant as preparation for succeeding the 63-year-old when his contract expires in 2017.
Speaking prior to Wednesday's victory at Newcastle, Giggs admitted that he regards his time under Van Gaal as a key stage of his learning process. "I'm serving my apprenticeship again," Giggs said. "That's the way I see it. I'm starting all over again. "I enjoyed the brief spell I had in four games managing last season and that really helped with the transition. I didn't miss playing as much as I thought I would. It's a completely new mindset, a completely new job than being a footballer.
"So whenever that time comes - I don't know when it will be - but all I can do is prepare myself."