Louis van Gaal happy with display in win over Norwich
Published 07/05/2016 | 16:31
Louis van Gaal declared job done as Manchester United enhanced their Barclays Premier League top four hopes to leave Norwich boss Alex Neil with a feeling of impending doom.
Juan Mata punished Sebastien Bassong's error as a 1-0 win at Carrow Road saw United move within one point of neighbours Manchester City, who play Arsenal on Sunday.
Suddenly everything is looking more positive for Van Gaal, whose position has been under scrutiny for much of the season.
The Dutchman could yet guide United into the Champions League and FA Cup glory.
"We did our job today. Fantastic, I think," Van Gaal said.
"When you see the second half, we deserved to win. We're still in the race (for the top four)."
Van Gaal remains aggrieved at the failure to award United two penalties in the draw with champions Leicester a week ago, believing it cost United points to leave his side relying on the Gunners.
"Now we are dependent on Arsenal," he said.
Norwich need results elsewhere to go their way, too.
Following Mata's goal the Canaries had 18 minutes to do what they had not managed to in their three previous games. But once more they failed to score.
Their fate could be decided as soon as Wednesday, when they host Watford.
"It's not over, but it's a major blow," Neil said.
"It looks a real tough situation to get out of.
"It's a repeat of our season. There's been so many times across the season where we've been well in the game, played pretty well at certain stages.
"It's off the back of another mistake that has been quite commonplace for us this year.
"It's tested my patience for a long time. They're not trying to do it, but when you're maybe under pressure and not performing, sometimes those errors can creep in.
"It's not solely down to that. There's a whole host of reasons why we are where we are."
Lack of goals is another reason as Norwich failed to score for a fourth straight game.
Cameron Jerome had an early header, which he directed straight at David de Gea.
Neil added: "You would expect if that ball comes into our box and they get a free header from that distance then you're fearing the worst.
"They're the type of opportunities and chances that when other teams get them against us end up in the back of the net. Unfortunately for us we don't seem to finish them."
Midfielder Jonny Howson will miss the Watford and Everton games with a knee ligament injury.
"He's opened his knee up, which is a massive blow for us. He's definitely out (for the season)," Neil added.
United were without Anthony Martial at Carrow Road after the striker felt a twinge in his knee in the warm up and Van Gaal was not prepared to risk the Frenchman.
Martial, who joined the rested Daley Blind and Marcus Rashford on the sidelines, was replaced by Ander Herrera, pushing Wayne Rooney up front.
Rooney, who has been playing in midfield of late, laid on the decisive goal for Mata.
"I don't think he was very happy with me that I decided to put him in the striker's position, but he could imagine also (why he had to play there)," Van Gaal said.
"He gave a fantastic assist to Juan Mata."
Rashford and Blind were rested with Tuesday's match at West Ham - the final game at Upton Park - in mind. The 18-year-old Rashford was in need of a breather, said Van Gaal.
"You see in a game that he's not doing things any more that you see he is doing in his first match or his second match," the Dutchman added.
Matteo Darmian went off on a stretcher with an ankle problem, but was able to walk with a brace post-match and was expected to undergo scans on Sunday.