LONDON - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has claimed Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea told one of his coaches he did not want to play in the Premier League club's first match of the season.
De Gea will not feature at Aston Villa on Friday because Van Gaal is convinced he is not in the right frame of mind to play due to Real Madrid's interest in signing him.
That was the same reason the Dutchman cited for leaving De Gea out of his squad for the season-opening 1-0 win against Tottenham last Saturday.
But Van Gaal has added another twist to the saga by revealing De Gea had told his goalkeeping coach Frans Hoek he did not want to play against Tottenham.
Van Gaal gave his normal pre-match press conference on Thursday and then stunned the room by wandering over and sitting next to a journalist in the audience who had earlier questioned him about De Gea.
Insisting his comments should be regarded as on the record, Van Gaal explained what had made him decide to drop De Gea from the Spurs game.
"We've talked with him (De Gea), he was fully agreed with our decision," Van Gaal said.
"I have one assistant coach (Albert Stuivenberg) and another assistant coach (Marcel Bout) so we speak about that kind of thing. We have a goalkeeping coach, Frans Hoek, I'm not doing everything alone.
"Frans Hoek, he has a meeting with David de Gea and he asks him, 'Do you want to play?'." When the reporter asked about De Gea's reply, Van Gaal said it was: "No." "Then I have to take the decision. It is a process. We had been observing him in preparation, he was not so good, he was not the same David de Gea as before, he was my best player last season.
"According to the fans, he was the best of the last two years." A United official attempted to "clarify" what had been said later by insisting Van Gaal meant De Gea was merely "not eager to play" against Tottenham because of the speculation surrounding his future.