Van Gaal upbeat but his Man Utd future looks bleak

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Van Gaal back under fire at Man Utd
Van Gaal back under fire at Man Utd

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal refused to give up on his side’s hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League despite a desperate 3-2 defeat against West Ham in the final game to be played at their Boleyn Ground stadium.

Van Gaal is set to come under intense pressure at Old Trafford if he fails to lead his side into next season’s Champions League, with United now needing to beat Bournemouth and hope Manchester City lose at Swansea in the final round of matches on Sunday if they are to seal a top four finish.

On a night when United managed just two shots on target, they still managed to forge ahead through two Anthony Martial goals, but a late Winston Reid header completed the Hammers comeback and edged Van Gaal’s side a giant step closer to next season’s Europa League.

“I think it is still possible but it is not in our own hands and that is the difference,” said Van Gaal, as he tried to talk up his side’s hopes of a Champions League finish on Sunday.

“It is very disappointing because we were ahead. We gave it away because of the set plays. As a manager you are never satisfied but when you are 2-1 ahead after 70 minutes then you have to make the pitch bigger and keep the ball better.

"They were lucky. They score from set pieces and as I said before, we are not a big team. This is a big mental blow and it is a missed opportunity."

Van Gaal was furious with the scenes prior to kick-off as the Man Utd bus was attacked by West Ham fans on the way to the stadium, but he insisted his side “should not look for excuses” after their defeat.

“As a professional we live in this world,” he added. “We know it can happen so we have to cope with that. Twenty minutes from the end we were 2-1 ahead so I don’t think that was an influence.”

United midfielder Michael Carrick was also philosophical, as he insisted the intimidation from West Ham fans was not a factor in his side’s defeat.

“We were in a good position but we didn’t help ourselves,” said the former West Ham midfielder. “You have got to be better than that, cleverer than that. 

“The atmosphere was loud and what we expected before the game. We have been in big atmospheres before. You have got to deal with that. 

“It is Man City’s hands now (to finish in the top four). We have let that slip. We have got to win our final game and see what happens.”

Doubts over Van Gaal’s future at United are certain to be raised once again after their eighth away defeat in the Premier League this season, with Jose Mourinho’s name certain to be linked with a move to replace the Dutchman once more in the coming days.

United insiders appeared to suggest in the hours before the West Ham game that it was Van Gaal who pulled the plug on a possible deal to sign Benfica youngster Renato Sanches, after the teenager completed a move to Bayern Munich instead of his expected move to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal is said to be “still in charge” of the club’s transfer policy for the upcoming transfer window, yet United released similarly unconvincing statements when they missed out on transfer targets in recent years.

It's hard to image Van Gaal remaining in his post if his side finish fifth and lose the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace at Wembley on May 21st, with this ongoing uncertainty at Old Trafford certain to dominate the headlines in the coming days.