Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal believes lifting the FA Cup at Wembley would do more for his side’s development than Champions League qualification could have.
A disappointing Premier League campaign saw United finish fifth, meaning they lose their seat at European football’s top table next term, but Van Gaal thinks victory over Crystal Palace tomorrow will help galvanise his squad.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has previously described finishing in the top four as the equivalent of a trophy, but the Dutchman thinks cup glory brings a more tangible sense of achievement to players and fans.
United have not laid their hands on silverware since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 and Van Gaal is eager to change that.
“Qualification is not a title...a title is the FA Cup, the championship,” he said.
“It is important for the players. They can look at and hold the cup, that’s an exciting moment and especially here in England because the FA Cup is a big title. Also for Manchester United it is a big title. I have read that the club’s last FA Cup was 2004 so that’s a long time ago.
“The fans are more concerned about the title than I am because the title for the fans is fantastic. We want to give it (to them).”
Van Gaal’s own future continues to be shrouded in doubt and it remains possible that his trip to Wembley will be his final match in charge.
Jose Mourinho remains strongly linked with a summer move to Old Trafford and it remains to be seen what effect a potential FA Cup triumph would have behind-the-scenes.
But Van Gaal brushed aside the importance of the result to his position.
“I think the interest of the club is much more important and the interest of the fans is much more important than the manager,” he said.
“A club like Manchester United needs silverware. It is not good to speak about my interest. For the club it is important and it is very important for the players and, of course, for the manager and staff it is very important. But first place is the club.
“The most interesting point is we are able to win something. We are very close but when you don’t win, you have nothing. First we have to win, then you can say it’s the first title after the period of Alex Ferguson.”
England defender Luke Shaw trained with the first team at Carrington yesterday, having not played since suffering a double leg fracture in September.
He has already been ruled out of the final, but was joined by the likes of fit-again pair Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian and Marouane Fellaini, available after his three-match suspension.
They will all be hoping to break into the XI which defeated Bournemouth 3-1 on Tuesday night, while Ander Herrera’s presence in the 18-man matchday squad looks vulnerable. Fellaini, in particular, would add ballast to an otherwise lightweight team that could otherwise be outmatched by Palace in terms of physicality.
The Belgian’s height would also be helpful in both boxes, an area that has already piqued Van Gaal’s attention.
“Twenty-nine goals of their 56 (in all competitions), more than 50%, are from set-plays. That’s a lot more than we have done,” he noted.
Here’s a little extra sport: Ahead of Euro 2016 BallTalk TV ask which Irish players in the Premier League had the best season:
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