Refreshed Van Gaal targets title as Manchester United expose Liverpool's weaknesses
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insisted last night that his side could still catch the Premier League's top two sides, Arsenal and Leicester City, and win the title.
Van Gaal was looking at the live feed of Arsenal's game at Stoke when he arrived in the Anfield press room, asked what the score was and then declared that it was not too late for his side to launch an improbable run for the title.
"It will depend on the result like it is now," he said, with the Britannia Stadium game well under way at that moment. "We are seven points behind now. We have a lot of matches still to go. We started 2016 very good with a lot of wins, this game will give a big boost to the players and the fans and the environment of Manchester United."
The win was unconvincing, but United have not lost in the five games since the desultory defeat at Stoke on St Stephen's Day which left the Dutchman unconvinced that he was the man to take the club on.
But the win, his fourth consecutive three points against Liverpool, was symbolically significant against the club's fiercest rival - and after initial hesitation he was persuaded that it might be his best day as United manager.
"Maybe in that perspective you are right," he said. "There are matches we have played much better than today, (though) in that perspective I can't say it is a good day because Liverpool dominated in the first half."
For Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp there was only frustration. "It's really bad," the German said. "It's a derby and you only have one job to do - to win it. That's the only possibility to be satisfied after the game. United at this moment will be happy. You can talk about their performance - and it wasn't that good - but they can be happy."
The home side's weakness seemed to be their lack of a striker, with James Milner and Jordan Henderson finding themselves with the best goalscoring opportunities.
But despite Klopp having no idea when Daniel Sturridge will be fit and his uncertainty about Christian Benteke, the German refused to say that he needed a new player.
"I think the smallest of our problems was our centre-forward," he said. "(Roberto) Firmino again played a good game. He is a real centre-forward. It's easy to say with another player we would have scored, but we should not think about it because we don't have other players."
Van Gaal said that United had pinpointed Liverpool's weakness as being a team of short players, with Marouane Fellaini's aerial presence proving critical to the goal.
"But that is not only a weakness of Liverpool," he said. "Liverpool have a small team in height, we have that also. Today, I'm asking always for indirect corners for my players because I think it is more difficult to organise against." (© Independent News Service)