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Misfiring Ajax insist Van Basten's job is safe

Ajax coach Marco van Basten has received the equivalent of the dreaded vote of confidence after the club's latest defeat in what is rapidly becoming a season to forget for the Amsterdam giants.

Ajax have taken only four points from five Eredivisie matches since the winter break and now lie third in the standings, some 14 points behind runaway leaders AZ Alkmaar.

But despite Sunday's 4-1 mauling away to Vitesse Arnhem, Ajax director Rik van den Boog insists van Basten does not need to worry about his position and insists the former Netherlands national team boss retains the support of the board.

''He is not up for discussion, come on,'' Van den Boog told newspaper De Telegraaf . ''It's unpleasant and bad that you see the championship go in such a short time, after such a disastrous month of January.

''As a director I hope to never be part of that again. But on the other hand it is a fact and you have to deal with it.''

With AZ running away with the league, Ajax's best hope is to finish second, a position which brings with it a berth in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League; that place is currently occupied by Steve McClaren's Twente Enschede who have lost just three games all season, half as many as Ajax.

Last week Ajax's training sessions were disrupted by a 300-strong group of supporters frustrated at the club's recent poor run. The fans even occupied the pitch in protest and demanded an explanation from van Basten.

Despite the inconvenience to the team Van den Boog has refused to condemn the protesters, saying: ''Football is emotional and, as I understand, the fans expressed their emotions in a correct way. The fans handle the situation with respect.''

Ajax plan to meet with a delegation of supporters about the club's current situation on Monday.

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