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Saturday 10 December 2016

'I'd take Cup over fourth'

Van Gaal believes final win more important for United than finishing in Premier League top-four

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal with Chris Smalling, during a training session at the Aon Training Complex in Carrington, ahead of their FA Cup final clash with Crystal Palace at Wembley tomorrow. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal with Chris Smalling, during a training session at the Aon Training Complex in Carrington, ahead of their FA Cup final clash with Crystal Palace at Wembley tomorrow. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (centre) with David De Gea (left) and Juan Mata (right), during a training session ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup final. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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 galvanize 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 Sir 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.

Fantastic

"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.

Interest

"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 that 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 on Thursday, 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 per cent, are from set-plays. That's a lot more than we have done," he noted.

Meanwhile, Herrera said that a win in tomorrow's final would raise spirits after a poor season.

Fighting

"We have to be realistic. United should be fighting for every title. We didn't do that with the Champions League," Herrera said.

"We didn't do that with the Premier League. So we have two options. Firstly, feel sorry for ourselves. Or, secondly, get this trophy for the fans, for our club and for ourselves." United scored only 49 league goals all season, their lowest return since 1989-90, which puts Van Gaal's future at the club in doubt.

The Red Devils last won the FA Cup in 2004 and have not made the final of the competition since they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in 2007.

"We are Manchester United and we have to fight for everything. That starts with the FA Cup now.

"As players at a big club, we have to look for success and we have to be demanding of ourselves and with the club," Herrera said.

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