'You cannot recreate decisions'- Louis van Gaal unbowed over 'bonkers' omission of Marcus Rashford
Although the decision came very close to backfiring spectacularly, Louis van Gaal has stood by his omission of Marcus Rashford from the Manchester United squad for yesterday’s narrow win over Norwich.
More than a few eyebrows and pulses were raised when it emerged that breakout striker Rashford was being rested for what was arguably United’s most important game of the season at Carrow Road.
With the Old Trafford club four points behind fourth place Manchester City, failure to beat a Norwich outfit desperately swimming against the tide of relegation, would certainly have cost them a Champions League berth and, indeed, their manager his job.
Prior to kick off on BT Sport, former United midfielder Paul Scholes lambasted the move and, not for the first time, was scathingly critical of Van Gaal, describing Rasford's absence as 'bonkers'.
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Disaster struck when Anthony Martial injured his knee during the warm up and had to be withdrawn, leaving United with no alternative striking options. As such, Ander Hererra was drafted in for the French attacker and Wayne Rooney was moved up front.
In the absence of Rashford and Martial, the visitors proved flat and insipid during an opening 45 minutes that may go down as the most prosaic first half of the campaign.
Juan Mata’s strike secured United a dubious 1-0 win, and saved Van Gaal the ignominy of trying to explain why such a seemingly misbegotten decision had likely cost the club a place at Europe’s top table.
Speaking to MUFC TV after the victory, Van Gaal was adamant that he had made the correct call, which also included resting Daley Blind. The Dutchman maintained the duo had clocked too much mileage of late to line out against Alex Neill’s outfit.
“That's always the case - that you cannot recreate your decisions," he said .
“I think they needed that rest and also you have seen other players are needing a rest. But I cannot give everybody a rest and that is the problem. You have to make these decisions before the game and not after it.
“After the game, you can decide what you want but it's not counting anymore. I thought Daley and Marcus needed a rest because they have played a lot of matches, nearly every match.
“Rashford is a youngster and he's played the last 10 games so it's not easy for him and he needs that rest. I wanted to give him this game off. It was already difficult before we lost Matteo Darmian and, before the match, Anthony Martial.”
However, his justification is somewhat vacuous in light of the fact that, including yesterday’s tie, United have four games left this season, including the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, all of which could be deemed unlosable for Van Gaal to offer any tangible evidence that the club are progressing under his guidance.
Furthermore, Rashford has played 15 times since making his goal-scoring debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League on February 25, which equates to just over one game a week – not exactly a Trojan schedule for a sprightly teenager in a rich vein of form.
Yet Lady Luck smiled on the former Bayern Munich boss for a second time this weekend. Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon has put United firmly in the driving seat.
With a game in hand, they are now just two points off City. A victory over West Ham on Tuesday night in the last ever game at Upton Park will see them commandeer fourth spot from their noisy neighbours ahead of the visit of Bournemouth to Old Trafford on the final day.
“Now we have to play away to West Ham United and we've seen already in the quarter-final of the FA Cup that it's not so easy. So we have to repeat that win.
“West Ham are a very good team - it's not for nothing they're in the top six of the table. We were lucky in the Cup. I think we deserved to win but we were lucky West Ham had a goal disallowed in the last minute."