Louis van Gaal admits it would be a huge disappointment if Manchester United missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification for a second successive season.
David Moyes was named as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor in the summer of 2013, and whilst he wasn’t quite expected to retain the title, a top-four finish was the minimum requirement. But the former Everton coach endured a miserable time in the Old Trafford dugout, and he was dismissed in April as the Reds plundered towards their lowest position since the inception of the Premier League.
Van Gaal was installed as the new head coach ahead of the current season, and he was able to splash out £150million on the likes of Radamel Falcao, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and £59.6million club record signing Angel di Maria. However, it has been a strange season for United, who have rarely hit the heights yet remain on course to reclaim their place in the top-four.
A 2-1 defeat at Swansea City last weekend means they are now just a point ahead of fifth-placed Southampton, whilst the ever-improving Liverpool are just two behind and Tottenham Hotspur a further one. Van Gaal’s side also have a difficult looking fixture list ahead of them, and the former Holland national coach admits missing out on the top-four would be something of a disaster.
“It would be a big disappointment,” van Gaal said when asked how he would feel if United again missed out on the top-four. “When you start a season with that objective then you are occupied with that. But we are still there in the top four. I don’t know why we are talking about this. We are still in the FA Cup. I am pleased with the results but not with a lot of the performances of my team.
“But always we are getting better despite all the injuries that we have suffered. Despite all the criticism of our defence we don’t have many goals against us. We are not unhappy but we could have had better results. When you see our matches we are mostly the better team but the better team is not always winning. You have to win your matches because the other clubs are winning their matches.”
United have indeed suffered several injury problems this season, the latest of which is an ankle injury to Robin van Persie who is expected to miss at least the next four weeks. The Reds take on Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, and take on Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs next month, as well as current leaders Chelsea and reigning champions Manchester City in April.