Thursday 21 September 2017

'I have agreed top four is the minimum requirement' - Louis van Gaal admits after loss

Louis van Gaal looks on during Manchester United's first ever defeat at the Stadium of Light. Photo: Getty
Louis van Gaal looks on during Manchester United's first ever defeat at the Stadium of Light. Photo: Getty

Michael Walker

Louis van Gaal conceded that the chances of a top-four finish in the Premier League were now close to extinct after his Manchester United side drifted to their seventh defeat of a dispiriting Premier League campaign, this time at Sunderland.

"Yes. It shall be very difficult now. But it is still possible," he said after presiding over United's first ever defeat at the Stadium of Light. "We need to win this game. With the games between the top four, we need to be there."

Goals by Sunderland's January signings Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone gave the home side a deserved win. And it leaves Van Gaal with a tortuous route to European qualification. "Now the way with the Europa League is easier I think," he said. "But also that is not so easy, because also you have fantastic European level in that cup. You have to show your capacity in every match. We didn't do that today. It is a big disappointment. I cannot say it in another way. I have agreed top four is the minimum requirement. This is the kind of match you have to win."

For his opposite number, the reaction was very different. Full of praise for his side's tenacity, Sunderland's Sam Allardyce suggested this was a win that would provide momentum for a surge up the table.

"It was a really good performance with the right result," he said. "We deserve credit for the way we've managed Manchester United. There can't be any-thing better to build confidence."

Eliminated from the FA Cup, he is now blessed with a two-week break, which will include a spell of warm-weather training in Dubai. For Van Gaal, there is no such luxury. Starting with Thursday's Europa League tie against Midtjylland, he will face six matches in 18 days. And how he could have done with a victory to kick-start such a crowded sequence.

"We needed so much the points," he said. "In the circumstances for Manchester United that is [the] most disappointing [thing]."

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