Louis van Gaal has vowed to fight until the end as Manchester United look to sneak Champions League qualification on the final weekend of the Premier League season.
A 3-2 loss at West Ham on Tuesday meant the Red Devils wasted the chance to wrest fourth spot from Manchester City.
United now need to win against Bournemouth at Old Trafford and hope City fall at Swansea, with the far superior goal difference of Manuel Pellegrini’s side meaning a draw would be enough for the Blues.
United are now just a 7-1 shot with bookmakers to secure fourth place and it is a position under-fire Van Gaal is frustrated to be in, but defeating the Cherries is the only thing on the Dutchman’s mind.
“We are dependent on Manchester City, that’s the difference and that’s also frustrating when you had the chance two matches before the end to keep that advantage,” he said.
“We were 2-1 ahead with 15 minutes to play and then we gave it away (against West Ham).
“That is frustrating and now we are dependent (on what City do), but still it is possible so we will fight until the end.”
United’s chances are further weakened by the fact Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin will give his players heading to Euro 2016 a rest this weekend.
Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Lukasz Fabianski have been given the weekend off, but Van Gaal refused to criticise the Italian for that decision.
“I have also given players rest and I have won,” he said.
“That is also possible for Swansea City. It is the responsibility of the club, the manager to do what he thinks is right for the team and I cannot judge that.
“My task is the same because we have to play against Bournemouth and I don’t play against Manchester City.”
Van Gaal’s position will come under increased scrutiny should United fail to reach the top four and he snapped when talk turned to falling short.
“Still, I have to remind you that we can qualify ourselves,” he said. Okay, so we are speaking ‘if’ and I don’t like ‘if’ — it has to be facts, but I can say what we have to improve still, because I don’t think we have to improve defensive organisation too much because we are doing well.
“We have to score more in our attacking organisation. That is what I have said before this season — that we need creative, fast players in attack. We have to change that and that is very important.”
Van Gaal, whose name was not mentioned by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in either the statement accompanying United’s third-quarter financial results published yesterday or the conference call to investors which followed it, is not only evaluating his players’ performances but his own. He says it is something he will continue to do “next season”, underlining his belief that he will see out the final year of his contract despite growing speculation that he will replaced at the end of the season.
“I am always evaluating and always adapting to the situation where we stand for,” he said. “It’s always the same, you have to evaluate yourself and not only yourself, but also your staff and players.
“You have to communicate and you have to listen to each other and I’m doing that. That shall be done also next season.
“The principles are always the same, except when one of the members of my staff or players or board members can convince me of other arguments.”
Van Gaal was less forthcoming when it came to extending Michael Carrick’s contract — “it’s not a matter that I discuss with you” — and the move of reported target Renato Sanches of Benfica to Bayern Munich.
“There are three parties,” he said. “I only have one party under control and not three parties.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved