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Saturday 10 December 2016

Jose move to put pep into United

Van Gaal eyes up trophies despite reports about Mourinho

Jose Mourinho Photo: Getty
Jose Mourinho Photo: Getty
Louis van Gaal is talking up United’s title chances despite his employers talking to Jose Mourinho Photo: PA

Reports of his employers holding talks with Jose Mourinho about a move to Manchester United has only intensified the pressure on Louis van Gaal, the incumbent at Old Trafford.

But despite the very strong hints that contract talks about a move to United for Mourinho, ideally but not necessarily for the start of next season, Van Gaal feels his side can still win the title this season.

Their rivals Manchester City stole a march on the rest of the Premier League by announcing earlier this week that the most-coveted coach in world football, Pep Guardiola, would start next season in charge of the side, and United fans groaning at their team's under-achievement this team can only look on in a mixture of shock and awe at the prospect of what the current Bayern Munich boss could do for City next term.

Few feel that the 64-year-old van Gaal is the man to take on Guardiola next season and the sight of Mourinho in the Old Trafford dugout on the day of a Manchester derby would breed more confidence that the lame duck which is van Gaal.

Some United fans are already voting with their feet and it's a worry that demand for their Europa League clash with Midtjylland is so low that one of the tiers at Old Trafford will remain closed.

Progress

So should talks with Mourinho progress, United would want to be in a position to give their own Pep [Guardiola] talk and announce that, while van Gaal is contracted for another season, Mourinho will be the boss man. United are in contention for three trophies, however, and Van Gaal feels that a win away to Chelsea tomorrow would reignite their campaign.

His comments come less than a fortnight after a dismal loss to Southampton that saw United and Van Gaal booed at Old Trafford and intensified speculation over his future.

But United got back to winning ways with victory at Derby in the FA Cup and then switched to a more attacking style to brush Stoke aside 3-0.

They are still 10 points behind leaders Leicester but Van Gaal claims the gap is not insurmountable. He said: "I have the feeling that when we shall beat Chelsea - and that is not simple, that is very difficult, since Guus Hiddink has been there they don't lose any more - I think our competition, our league is starting again. That is very important.

"The competition is not yet finished, not for Manchester United or the other teams.

"We have the feeling, and that's because we are winning twice in a row and with sparkling football - with goals and clean sheets, against opponents who were in great form. Stoke City played Liverpool off the pitch in the Capital One Cup but they lost on penalties."

Van Gaal is also hopeful of taking his side to the Europa League final, if his comments on left-back Luke Shaw are anything to go by.

Shaw suffered a double leg break in the Champions League game at PSV Eindhoven in September but has been included in United's squad for the Europa League in the second half of the season. Van Gaal said: "He can play the final. That I have said to him. That is a goal that he has to live for."

Van Gaal may be expecting a tough test against Hiddink's side at Stamford Bridge but was unwilling to engage in conversation about his fellow former Dutch national boss at his latest press conference.

The pair are two of Holland's most successful managers of recent times but are not close.

Asked what his past dealings with Hiddink were like, Van Gaal said: "Professional."

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