Failure of forwards has left us in 'rat race' says Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal has claimed the failure of Manchester United’s £100m strike-force this season has left the club in a ‘rat race’ for Champions League qualification.
United face Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday in fourth place in the Premier League, but having allowed sixth-placed Liverpool to close to within two points having been 10 points clear of Brendan Rodgers’ team on Boxing Day.
With Robin van Persie – United’s 10-goal leading scorer in the league – sidelined for at least two weeks with an ankle injury, Van Gaal must choose between Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao and James Wilson as his strike-force against Sunderland.
But with his four forwards contributing just 24 goals between them in the Premier League this season, while the likes of Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero have netted 17 each for Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, Van Gaal admits that his side have fallen short of requirements in front of goal.
“It is true because I cannot deny it,” Van Gaal said. “Robin van Persie cannot deny it, Falcao cannot deny it and Rooney is not playing there [up front] much anymore.
“But we cannot deny that, at this moment, we don't have a striker who scores 20 goals in the season.
“They [forwards] could be having an unlucky year and I have to take into account these aspects and I have to decide, with my staff, if it is these aspects or other aspects.”
With United failing to pull clear of the chasing pack in the battle for Champions League qualification, however, Van Gaal admits the pressure is on the team to find consistency, beginning with a victory against Sunderland today.
"It is a rat race between five clubs," said Van Gaal. "Therefore you have to win your matches because the other clubs are winning their matches.
"We are not unhappy. I am pleased with the results, but not with a lot of the performances.
“When I came here, being in the first four was my goal and we are still there. But, of course, it would be a big disappointment not to make it."
Van Gaal, meanwhile, has defended the performances of £59.7m British record signing Angel di Maria by claiming the Argentine needs time and space to adjust to the Premier League.
“I know as a manager that he is a very creative player and you can see this from the statistics,” Van Gaal said. “He needs that space and I give that space, but he needs to do also things with his brain and that is a learning process, not only with Di Maria, but with all the players.
“When you buy players you need to give them time to adapt to the culture of England, to the rhythm of the Premier League, because that is a big difference to somewhere like Spain.
“So it is not always the fault of the manager, when a player is not performing well, I can tell you.”