Louis Van Gaal is a stubborn, stubborn man. Of course, you don’t reach the top of your respective profession without being headstrong with complete conviction in your ways, but he’s only growing more so — perhaps with his fingers in his ears, shouting, “La la la la, I can’t hear you” at anyone who tries to tell him otherwise — as Manchester United’s 2015-16 season began to quickly slip away this week.
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Having already been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League this week, Man United followed up Tuesday’s CL defeat with another bitter blow on Saturday, a 2-1 away defeat to tiny Bournemouth in the Premier League, to see Van Gaal’s side potentially slip out of the top-four by the end of the weekend (Tottenham Hotspur host Newcastle United on Sunday, and a win would vault them past Man United for fourth). Yet, Van Gaal insists that United are still alive in the race for the league title this season.
In terms of United’s title-winning chances, Van Gaal said after Saturday’s defeat, “We have the selection to [win the title].”
More from Van Gaal on United’s season — quotes from the Guardian:
“We have to make a revival this week and that is always very difficult because you have just lost two matches in row and that is not happening so much for Manchester United.”
“Of course I am concerned because we have lost two matches in a row and that is not a usual thing. We have to stick together and prepare our match against Norwich City and you have to win because otherwise it is more difficult.
“My players are very disappointed, they have done everything but they have lost [at Bournemouth]. We shall do our job. Now we have to stay in a position to keep fighting. We have to win three matches in a row, for example, to be still there after Christmas.”
While United might be out of the top-four by this time on Monday, Van Gaal is 100 percent right that his side are still title contenders. They might be fifth after Sunday, but they’ll still only be, at the very most, five points off the top spot with 22 games left to be played. Not a single one of Manchester City, Arsenal or Leicester City look capable of running away with the title this season, so everyone all the way to Tottenham in fifth have to believe they could perhaps win the most wide-open Premier League in recent memory.
Of course, they’ll have to find a way to score some goals if they’re to compete with the PL’s top sides, let alone Bournemouth. The first step in doing so would be for United to get healthy — nine players were unavailable on Saturday, with two more, Jesse Lingard and Paddy McNair, also picking up injuries against the Cherries.
The upcoming festive period, as is often the case, will likely be where title challengers solidify themselves as contenders, or write themselves off as pretenders. Beginning next Saturday, United will play four games in 14 days with their title hopes largely on the line.