London - David Beckham has come to the defence of under-pressure Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, saying the Dutchman needs time to turn the club's fortunes around.
United's 3-0 FA Cup win over third-tier Shrewsbury on Monday gave Van Gaal some breathing space but United still need to overturn a 2-1 deficit at home to FC Midtjylland on Thursday if they are to overcome a shock loss to the Danish minnows in the first leg of their Europa League tie.
United are only fifth in the Premier League after seven defeats this season, with Van Gaal under fire for a 'dull' style of football seen as contrary to the club's traditional attacking approach in the eyes of many fans.
Recently the local Manchester Evening News took the unusual step of calling for Van Gaal, who replaced David Moyes - the short-lived successor to hugely successful United manager Alex Ferguson - to be sacked.
But former United midfielder Beckham, a key member of many of Ferguson's victorious teams, told Britain's Talksport radio on Tuesday: "He (Van Gaal) is an experienced manager with a great reputation in the game. Sometimes it takes time. It is not easy being manager of Man United.
"We have to look at results, we have to look at the way we play, we have to listen to fans - the people that really matter at the club - and I only hear great things about him as a person, as a manager, as a coach," the former England captain added.
"I have met him once before and he treated me unbelievably well.
"He is manager of Manchester United so there is always going to be criticism, but at the end of the season let's see what happens." Jose Mourinho, sacked by English champions Chelsea after the Blues' woeful start to this season, has been touted as a possible replacement for Van Gaal at Old Trafford.
Beckham, while wanting Van Gaal to be given more time at United, said he hoped Mourinho would get another chance to manage a Premier League club.
"Jose leaving Chelsea, who would have expected that after the season they had last year? It doesn't make him a bad manager," said Beckham, who left United for Real Madrid in 2003, before spells with Los Angeles Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris St Germain ahead of retiring in 2013.
"He is still one of the best managers and I hope he comes back to the Premier League as soon as possible.
"The Premier League is the Premier League for the great players we bring in, the great teams, the money, the fans and the great characters that we have as managers. You want to see managers like that in the game." The 40-year-old Beckham won six Premier League titles and the 1999 Champions League - part of a treble-winning season, during his time at United under Ferguson.
Moyes lasted less than a year at United after Ferguson retired and Beckham said some sort of a downturn was all but assured.
"As a Man United fan, I always hoped we wouldn't go through a slump, but it was inevitable," Beckham said.
"When the manager (Ferguson) left that was always going to be a massive thing, but you also lost players like Keaney (Roy Keane), like Scholesy (Paul Scholes) - and Giggsy (Ryan Giggs) has stopped playing.
"You have lost such great characters through the team, and (former chief executive) David Gill stepped away from Manchester United. They are all integral parts of the club.
"We have had so much success over the last 20 years that if we don't win something for one season or two seasons people talk about it being a crisis.
"Man United is Man United. It doesn't matter if you love them or hate them, they are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, club in the world and you have to keep that reputation. The only way you can keep that reputation is by winning trophies."