Thursday 19 July 2018

United still ahead of Tottenham, claims Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal looks on prior to the match. Photo: Getty
Louis van Gaal looks on prior to the match. Photo: Getty

Jeremy Wilson

Louis van Gaal maintained that Manchester United remain "ahead" of Tottenham Hotspur and will always be the bigger club even after yesterday's emphatic 3-0 defeat and a 12-point gap in the Premier League table.

United were completely overrun by Tottenham during a scintillating seven-minute period of the second half but Van Gaal (below), who opted to join United rather than Spurs after the 2014 World Cup finals, was adamant that he had no regrets about his decision.

"In the balance we are still ahead and you take one match as something," he said. "The challenge is always bigger in a bigger club. I liked also to sign for Tottenham and (chairman) Daniel Levy knows that but the challenge was bigger for me in Manchester United and shall always be bigger.

"I am sorry for Tottenham but Manchester United is a bigger club. I think it is a little bit pathetic that you asked that because they have won 3-0. But it is OK, you enjoy yourself, I think."

Defeat has left United four points adrift of the Premier League's top four and fully 19 points behind leaders Leicester City.

Van Gaal, though, again defended much of United's performance and was adamant that the match was ultimately decided by small details, notably Anthony Martial's missed chance and then a lack of defensive communication.

"The first part of the first half we were the better team," he said. "In the second half we were equal. They had chances and we had the biggest chance with Anthony Martial, a lot of space and time in the area that was a big chance but the miscommunication in our central defence turns the match.

"It was a game with two teams who play more or less the same. The first goal is very important."

United are also facing the prospect of a fine of at least £5,000 after kick-off had to be delayed by 30 minutes due to their late arrival at White Hart Lane. It is understood that the United team bus only left the Landmark Hotel in central London at around 1.45 for the scheduled 4.0 start and then had to be diverted after they could not get under a bridge.

There is a fixed £5,000 penalty for matches that are delayed by 15 minutes or less. Beyond that and the situation must be considered by the Premier League Board, although the range of punishments would not include a points deduction.

Van Gaal said that arriving late had no impact on his players but Tottenham did seem to lack their usual rhythm and focus.

"We missed a lot of easy passes," said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.

"We arrived at 12.30 at the stadium, and spent a lot of time waiting for the start of the game."

Van Gaal also confirmed that Wayne Rooney would make his comeback for the U-21 team against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford tonight but stressed that his captain must now prove his match fitness.

"He shall play 60 minutes," said Van Gaal. "He is more than two months out of the game.

"He is a great striker but he has to show already if he is in certain shape."

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