Louis van Gaal: 'We can still win the title'
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has said it is still possible for Manchester United to win the title this season.
When asked if his team could catch Chelsea, who lead United by eight points, and win the title, Van Gaal said today: "Mathematically, we can still do it."
If United beat Villa and Arsenal fail to beat Liverpool on Saturday, the Red Devils will move up to second ahead of Manchester City, who play Crystal Palace on Monday.
Being so high in the table would have been unthinkable during the early stages of Van Gaal's reign, but he is good spirits as United head into the home straight.
"I have a good feeling that we can continue against Aston Villa," he said.
"I said when we had 13 points from 11 games and we were getting a lot of criticism that we would see at the end of the season.
"It is still a rat race. Also Tottenham and Liverpool are still in it.
"We have given them a blow but we have to play against the first three still. A lot can still happen."
Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has been ruled out of Manchester United's Barclays Premier League match against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Van Persie has not played for United since he suffered an ankle injury in the 2-1 defeat to Swansea on February 21.
It was expected he would return this weekend after the international break, but manager Louis van Gaal said the Holland striker is still not match fit.
"Robin van Persie is still injured," the United manager said at his weekly press conference at the AON Training Complex.
"We have a process. He has to go to the final football coach before he comes into my group and he is not there yet.
"He is still not in my group."
Chris Smalling came off in the first half of England's 1-1 draw in Italy through illness on Tuesday and he is a major doubt for Villa's visit to Old Trafford.
"Smalling is ill so I don't know if he is available," Van Gaal said.
"(On Thursday) he was at the club, but in the medical department, doing his recovery and so on. (On Friday) I know already that he is not feeling well so it shall be difficult for him."
There is better news regarding Luke Shaw, though.
Shaw missed England's games against Lithuania and Italy due to a hamstring problem, but he is back to full fitness, according to Van Gaal.
The Dutchman said: "Luke Shaw is in my group."
United boosted their chances of Champions League qualification with successive wins over Tottenham and Liverpool before the international break.
Van Gaal's team are now fourth in the Barclays Premier League, five points in front of Liverpool with eight matches left.
When asked if his team could catch Chelsea, who lead United by eight points, and win the title, Van Gaal said: "Mathematically, we can still do it."
Although the international break came at a bad time for Van Gaal with his team in such form, he was happy to see some of his players star while away with their countries.
Radamel Falcao equalled Colombia's all-time scoring record with goals against Bahrain and Kuwait.
Wayne Rooney scored in England's 4-0 win over Lithuania and impressed during the second half of the 1-1 stalemate in Turin.
And Marouane Fellaini continued his fine form for Belgium by grabbing three goals in two games against Israel and Cyprus.
Fellaini scored in the 3-0 win over Tottenham and has looked anything but the player that was mocked around the country for his displays following his £27.5million move from Everton.
Van Gaal has regarded the player highly ever since his first day at Carrington.
"From the first training session he did what I asked," Van Gaal said. "He was open and he wants to perform, so I am not surprised.
"He had an unlucky season (last year) because he was injured a lot of times and ill a lot of times and because of that he didn't play so much but when he was fit he has always played for me, more or less.
"I was looking for balance in the team and he can give a lot of balance in the team.
"I can change him also. It is dependable of the qualities of the opponent, but when he plays like he is playing now I cannot change him."