Louis van Gaal: I would rather Manchester United win the FA Cup than Europa League
Louis van Gaal would rather lift the FA Cup at Wembley, but knows winning the Europa League has become his priority as it is likely to be Manchester United’s only way back into the Champions League next season.
United are six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City in the Premier League and Van Gaal has already conceded that gap looks too big for them to close.
As a result, although the Europa League is not a competition anyone at United wanted to be involved in at the start of the season, it is not one van Gaal can afford to take lightly, even if he is more attracted to the idea of winning a domestic competition in England.
The Dutchman is trying hard to ignore the fact most people believe he will be replaced as manager by Jose Mourinho in the summer, regardless of what he achieves between now and the end of May.
If these are the final four months of his reign, Van Gaal understands the only way to salvage some pride is to win United’s first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
“My personal wish is to win the FA Cup,” said Van Gaal. “I have already won the Uefa Cup and I want to win a title in England. That is why I have come to this country, to make Manchester United champions or give them a title [in England].
“But I understand, for Manchester United it is much more important to win the Europa League because it will give us the Champions League.”
Asked whether the Europa League offered the most realistic route for United to qualify for the Champions League, given their inconsistency, Van Gaal added: “It is not only my best route, but ours I think.
“However, I think it is also difficult to win [the Europa League] because there are also very good European teams in the league. We are with the last 32 teams, so we still need to win a lot of rounds.
“It’s a way to get into the Champions League. It’s a fantastic aim for us to win this cup because Manchester United have never won it.”
Van Gaal, though, is also wary of under-estimating their hosts FC Midtjylland, who knocked Southampton out of the competition back in August.
“They are a very good team and it will be difficult, especially in these circumstances,” said Van Gaal. “They have already beaten Southampton this season and we lost to them recently.
“The pitch is very small and they play the same system as Sunderland 4-1-4-1, which caused us difficulties at the weekend. It is presumptuous to talk of winning the Europa League when we are facing a team like this.”
Van Gaal also expressed his sympathy for United fans, who have been forced to pay £71 for a ticket to watch the match as Midtjylland look to cash in on a visit from such glamorous opposition.
“Of course, I support the fans,” Van Gaal explained. “It is a big difference from the price of the game against Southampton. It shows you that Manchester United is a big team in this world. I have very much sympathy for the fans.”