Louis van Gaal targets top three finish and FA Cup glory to remain at Man United next season
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has urged his side to target a top three finish in the Premier League and FA Cup glory, as he aims to finish a troubled campaign on a high.
Van Gaal's future remains the subject of huge speculation, with Jose Mourinho and Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino linked with moves to replace the Dutchman at Old Trafford in recent months.
His assistant Ryan Giggs is also believed to be a strong contender to take over at United, but a third place finish in tandem with an FA Cup win could banish the rumours of a managerial change at Old Trafford this summer.
"We are capable of being in the top three in the league at this moment and we believe in that, the players believe in that," said Van Gaal, as he spoke ahead of Sunday's Premier League game against Everton at Old Trafford.
“We can also win the FA Cup, so we have a lot to fight for. I hope that we show it already in the first match because that is the most important match as you have to continue what you have done against City.”
Van Gaal's ambitions look set to be boosted by the return of two star men, with captain Wayne Rooney and defender Luke Shaw closing in on first team comebacks after lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Shaw has not played since breaking his leg in a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven on September 15th, while Rooney is close to a return after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“He’s doing great," said Van Gaal of Rooney. "He trained today at a lower level with the ball and will probably play an Under-21s match before he comes back.”
Van Gaal went on to offer a positive report on the fitness of some of his other absent stars: “Luke Shaw will be back on the training pitch on Monday with the physio.
“Ander Herrera and Ashley Young are coming back. Young and Adnan Januzaj played with the reserves in a match on the Friday of the international break.”
Meanwhile, van Gaal also paid tribute to United director Bobby Charlton, who will be at the Everton game on Sunday as one of the Old Trafford stands is renamed in his honour.
There are widespread reports that Charlton is among those keen to block Mourinho coronation as United manager and van Gaal confirmed he has always felt warm backing from the influential former United star.
“He is on the board and is always backing me,” added Van Gaal. “He was my idol when I was young and, now I have met him personally, he is such a kind, friendly man.”
Van Gaal’s future looks certain to be a subject of debate throughout the month of April and if he enjoys a bumper few weeks of success, the prospect of Mourinho taking over at Old Trafford any time soon may fade.