Man United Must Win Top Four ‘Rat Race,’ Says Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal admits it will be a massive disappointment if Manchester United are unable to seal a top four slot and return to the Uefa Champions League next season.

United are currently placed fourth in the Premier League table, a point ahead of Southampton in fifth position, ahead of Sunderland’s visit on Saturday.

Chelsea and Manchester City have already grappled on the first two slots on offer in the English top flight, while the likes of Arsenal, Southampton, Liverpool and Tottenham are in a scrap for the remainder two spots passed for Champions League football.

“It is because of the rat race between five clubs that we have to win, we have to be there,” Van Gaal told reporters in his media briefing at Carrington on Friday. “It would be a big disappointment (not to make top four), of course, a big disappointment.”

Louis van Gaal Says Manchester Must Win the Rat Race. Image: Getty.
Louis van Gaal Says Manchester Must Win the Rat Race. Image: Getty.

Just four points separate Arsenal in third with 48 points and Tottenham Hotspur in seventh place with 44 points after 26 matches of the campaign. However, the 63-year-old does not appear too concerned about the situation.

He said: “When you start the season with objective of finishing in the first four of the league it is your objective and you are occupied with doing that. When I came here, that was my goal and we are still there. Therefore you have to win your matches because the other clubs are winning their matches.”

Last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Swansea was only United’s second defeat in their last 20 games in all competitions. Van Gaal has been pleased with those outcomes but not the Red Devils’ performances.

“I am pleased with the results, but not with a lot of the performances of my team,” stressed the Dutch boss. “Our process is continuing and always we are going better. In spite of the many injuries we have had in the first half of the season, we are there.

“Also in spite of the criticism of our defence, we are there, we don’t have many goals against us. So, we are not unhappy. When you see our matches we are mostly the better team, but the better team is not always winning.”

The manager also gave injury updates on midfielder Michael Carrick and young striker James Wilson. Carrick returned to training in the week after recovering from a calf strain but Sunderland has come too early for him. Wilson, who suffered a dead leg in an Under-21 game on Monday, is good for the weekend.

United’s leading scorer, Robin van Persie, who left the Liberty Stadium pitch on crutches on Saturday, will miss the game against the ‘Black Cats.’

Van Gaal added: “He (Van Persie) is injured. The only injured player that I have. So, we change Carrick for Van Persie. Robin has an ankle problem so I don’t think it is heavy, but an ankle problem takes a long time. It’s not one or two weeks, but we will have to wait and see.

“Michael is very experienced and he can play in a very important position. But he also needs match rhythm. He trained only one time with us, with the group, so he needs to also play in the second team.”

Van Gaal also expressed delights about key developments during the week, with young defender Tyler Blacket and Reece James both agreeing to long-term contracts.

“When I came here there they told me that they wanted to have more youth academy players in the first-team,” he explained.

“I am happy that we can sign players from our youth academy and our players are very popular as we also have a lot of youngsters out on loan. I believe in players that you have educated in your own youth academy.”