Van Gaal: Winning Europa League United’s best hope of UCL next season

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Louis Van Gaal has admitted Manchester United’s chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League are fading. Fast.

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Speaking to BT Sport after their 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on Saturday, Van Gaal was blunt and forthright in his assertion that United may not be competing in the UEFA Champions League next season.

Now six points off the top four and having played a game more than most of their rivals, United’s chances of returning to Europe’s elite club competition look bleak, at best.

“It shall be very difficult now,” Van Gaal said. “Because we have given five points away, Chelsea and now. It is too much at this time.”

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Asked about the pressure building on him, Van Gaal was adamant he will carry on with his job as normal and he also stated United’s best chance of featuring in the UEFA Champions League next season is to win the Europa League.

“I have to do my work and I do my work to my utmost best. I cannot do more and I shall prepare my players against Midtjylland 100 percent and I shall do that always… I think after this match it is the best route but it is also not so easy because some very good teams are participating in this event.”

United face the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie against the Danish minnows on Thursday. If they don’t win that game, it could be curtains for Van Gaal with growing speculation around Jose Mourinho arriving to replace him at Old Trafford.

After spending $375 million on new players, finishing fourth last season and crashing out of the UCL at the group stages this season, Van Gaal’s time at United cannot be deemed a success.

This latest loss to Sunderland highlighted plenty of the flaws the Red Devils have as they dominated possession but failed to really get in-behind Sunderland and once again — just like in recent games against Newcastle, Southampton and Chelsea — a late defensive lapse cost them points.

This stat below perhaps explains best as to the lack of progress under LVG over the last 18 months.