Van Gaal: My Man Utd team are not far behind Tottenham

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Van Gaal's latest boast is a little hard to fathom
Van Gaal's latest boast is a little hard to fathom

Louis van Gaal has claimed that his Manchester United side are not far behind title chasing Tottenham, despite plenty of evidence undermining that curious boast.

Spurs sit second in the table after a thrilling 4-0 win at Stoke on Monday night that confirmed their status as the only serious challengers to runaway leaders Leicester.

Mauricio Pochettino's side also beat United 3-0 earlier this month, but Van Gaal found a way to suggest his team were not far away from being a match for the free flowing North London side.

"I don't think there is a lot of distance between Tottenham and Manchester United, but the distance is in points," he argued.

"They have won more, they are scoring more and that's because they have more creative players.

"We have beaten Tottenham 1-0 (earlier in the season) and until the 70th minute I think we were the better team but then (there was) a mis-communication."

Some of that miscommunication Van Gaal refers to may have been down to his curious decision to play part of the game against Spurs with winger Ashley Young as a makeshift forward, while leaving striker Anthony Martial isolated out on the wing.

Those kind of decisions have infuriated United supporters during Van Gaal's tenure as manager, with yet the Dutchman still has a chance to finish this season on a high.

A top four finish and success in the FA Cup may yet keep him in a job at United for a third season and he has admitted captain Wayne Rooney has much to prove if he is to play a key role in a defining for days in United's season.

Rooney is making his way back from injury and is desperate to play against his old club Everton in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but Van Gaal hints he needs to prove his fitness in Wednesday night's Premier League game against Crystal Palace.

"It's dependent on how he plays, like every player. We have to see how he is playing," said Van Gaal of Rooney, who made his first start in two months against Aston Villa on Saturday.

"I think he played very well in the first half (against Villa), I have said that already. In the second half he was tiring but he had already got 60 minutes in his legs.

"He has trained today and he has recovered so we will have to see how he is feeling in the second half against Crystal Palace and still he has to play good."