Wednesday 17 January 2018

Van Gaal tells United players to focus on glory game

Louis Van Gaal has his sights firmly set on Manchester United winning the FA Cup. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Louis Van Gaal has his sights firmly set on Manchester United winning the FA Cup. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Louis Van Gaal has urged his Manchester United players to forget about revenge and focus on grasping their FA Cup second chance against Cambridge United at Old Trafford tonight.

Van Gaal's team face Richard Money's crew in a fourth round replay after being held to a 0-0 draw by the League Two minnows 10 days ago.

United's failure to overcome a team which was playing non-League football last season prompted criticism of Van Gaal's methods and the performance of several high-profile players.

However, with United aiming to end an 11-year wait to win the Cup this season, Van Gaal insisted that his players focus on earning a fifth round trip to Sheffield United or Preston North End rather than revenge.

"Today, everyone wants revenge," Van Gaal said. "Before the Leicester match, Wayne Rooney said [about the 5-3 defeat at Leicester City]: 'Do you remember how we lost that?'

"It is also that same feeling with Cambridge, but I don't think it is a great motivation. The motivation is the FA Cup because, when there are a lot of high potential winners out, then your chance is bigger."

Van Gaal is poised to field a full-strength team tonight, with the possible exception of Victor Valdes making his United debut in place of David de Gea in goal.

Van Gaal admitted that the surprise fourth-round exits of Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur had eased United's path to the final, but he would have preferred not to be involved in a replay.

"I think that it's better not to play [the replay] because we should have finished it already in Cambridge. But in spite of all the criticism, we are still in the FA Cup.

"Although this club has won the FA Cup 11 times, it is now almost 11 years since we last won the trophy and I am sure we all agree that is too long for a club of this stature."

Van Gaal thought the pitch and the referee were against them in the first game.

And, although Cambridge will have to cope with the expanses of Old Trafford's pitch and the biggest crowd most of them will ever perform in front of tonight, the United manager believes that the tide of events will be against them again.

This time, he argued, it will be the wave of public sentiment will­ing on Cambridge, whose players were told they would have to pay for new shirts if they swapped them after the final whistle, to pull off one of the greatest of FA Cup upsets.

"They will be coming with two rows of four and you have to score the first goal," said Van Gaal. "It is not such an easy game."

Over 6,000 Cambridge fans will be in Old Trafford. In the directors' box, the Cambridge board, more used to the hospitality at Forest Green, Welling and Aldershot after eight long years in the Conference, will be able to appreciate the full significance of what their players delivered in the first match.

They will be taking home with them 40 per cent of the receipts from a gate of more than 60,000.

"When you have no money, when you're wondering whether you can pay the wages, wondering whether you can make it past the end of the month, you can never make strategic decisions. What this does is allows us to do is plan," explained chief executive Jez George.

Immediately after the first game, club chairman Dave Doggett suggested that the money accrued might be spent on a new set of toilets at the stadium, to replace a facility notorious among fans for the creaking nature of its plumbing.

Mistake

"Actually I made a mistake with that," he said. "Since then I've been inundated with people ringing me up, wanting to do the work.

"I've had manufacturers offering to supply us with new urinals for nothing, just to be associated with the publicity. I realise now I should have said we needed a new stand. I could have got the seats for free."

In fact, the money from the replay will in part go towards the cost of a new training facility.

Doggett insisted that the rewards available from this tie were not merely financial. "It's a catalyst to take the club into the next level. Listen, the money's nice, more than nice. But we have a fan base that is getting older," he said.

"What this game has done is expose us to local youngsters. If we can get them supporting Cambridge from eight or nine, they will be with us for life, asking each other if they remember the day they had a day off school to go to Man United."

Manchester United v Cambridge United, live, BT Sport 1, 7.45pm

Irish Independent

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