Saturday 10 December 2016

Manchester United boss Van Gaal: We can still qualify for the Champions League

Tom Rooney

Published 10/04/2016 | 19:34

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (C) and assistant manager Ryan Giggs
Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (C) and assistant manager Ryan Giggs Reuters / Eddie Keogh

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal believes his side can still qualify for the Champions League despite today’s 3-0 loss to Spurs leaving them four points off fourth place Manchester City.

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United arrived at White Hart Lane, late as it happened, knowing that a victory over Spurs was vital if they were to stay within touching distance of their crosstown rivals, who dispatched of West Brom yesterday.

Tottenham, of course, were also in desperate need of  three points after league leaders Leicester extended their lead at the top of the table to 10 points with a 2-0 win over Sunderland earlier in the day.

The first half never fully ignited, however, as neither side registered a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

But, with 20 minutes on the clock, the hosts hit an incredible purple patch during which they scored three times in five minutes thanks to Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela. They stunned United in the process and, in turn, all but ended their chances of competing at Europe’s top table next season.

Van Gaal seemingly disagrees and stated that the final score-line did not amply reflect the difference between the sides.

“Every team can lose from everybody so still we are in the race but, of course, when you lose a game you have to close the gap again and that’s more difficult,” he told Sky Sports.

“I don’t think so because I think Tottenham are a great team, and I said that in advance of this match. But, until the first goal, I think we were a good team, playing good in Tottenham and also had a big chance for a goal.

“So you cannot say the way we have lost. Yes, three-zero is a negative result but until the first goal it was good.”

Asked if, at half time, he felt his team would capitulate like they did, Van Gaal claimed that nothing that happened in the first period suggested such an unfolding was afoot.

Furthermore, he said that had Anthony Martial converted a well-worked chance just after the hour, the contest would have been hugely different, and was critical of Marcos Rojo’s marking of Toby Alderweireld for Spur’s second of the day.

“I think until the first goal we were at least the equal team. I think the better chance for us was Martial; that was big space and big time for him.

“But we give the goal away, I think a miscommunication and within five minutes we were out of the game.

“The second goal is a set play, and our best header (Rojo), or one of our best header, loses that dual. It was a fantastic from Alderweireld, but it cannot happen. That it is also what I said to him.”

It’s rare a Manchester United game goes by when Van Gaal doesn’t turn heads with a strange tactical choice and this afternoon was no different.

In a bid to change United’s attacking shape at half-time, he deployed Ashley Young- usually a full or wing back for the former Ajax boss – as a centre forward and left Martial on the flank. Van Gaal, apparently,  thought Young was the best target man at his disposal.

“I want more running in behind because in the first half we did not have an attacking point and that’s the reason.”

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