LVG: WENGER IS JUST 'FANTASTIC'
Van Gaal amazed Arsenal manager has lasted so long
LOUIS van Gaal has doffed his hat to Arsene Wenger and paid a rich tribute to his remarkable ability to surive for so long at the very top of his profession.
Speaking in advance of Monday's FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford, van Gaal acknowledged Wenger's unique position in the Premier League and claimed that a story like his could only unfold in England.
"In my opinion what he has done is amazing. It can only be done in England, I believe, where managers are so long committed with one club," he said.
Van Gaal's background is strictly rooted in continental European leagues where very few managers last beyond three or four years at a club. His own background matches that profile.
"It shows how much he can mean for a club as a manager. I like that - like Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger - I think it's fantastic that you can do that."
Van Gaal is predicting an even tussle but because of the relative positions of the two clubs in the Premier League, the game will have an added bite
"It's a game between two teams of 11 players. United are Arsenal are placed third and fourth in the league, so it's almost like a final, I think."
"I think if we beat them it is a big blow for them but if they beat us it is a big blow for us. It is a very important game, not only for the FA Cup but also for the rat race."
"We have the support of our fans but Arsenal shall also bring a lot of fans. I hope we can give them a fantastic match," said the Dutchman.
Van Gaal may want a day out in Wembley but his main interest is getting ahead of Arsenal in the race for Champions League football.
The top four is important for the club, if you win the FA Cup you're still not in the Champions League. It's fantastic for the manager, but our goal is to reach the top four in our first season together.
Van Gaal's increasingly influential midfielder Anders Herrera agrees and believes that the late, late win over Newcastle in midweek could be a very important one when the points are totted up at the end of the season.
"It felt much more important after the game than before. When I was looking at the results of our rivals I thought it was a very, very important victory because Arsenal won, Liverpool won, Tottenham won, Southampton won.
"You know the battle for the top four is going to be very hard but I think we are in the right way, because we are winning the games through keeping the ball and creating more chances than our opponent."
The key man in that win over the Toon was goalscorer Ashley Young and van Gaal now believes he has found the best way to use him.
"He is a player who wants to perform what you say. I think he fits good in my profile. We have played also with wing-backs and I think that is his best position. Now I use him as a winger and he does a very good job. I am pleased with him."
"We are progressing still, which is why I was pleased with the performance [on Wednesday] as it was a better way of playing. I was not pleased that we didn't score from the chances but okay, it's going well. We didn't lose unnecessary balls, or not as many as before. I was pleased with our composure on the ball."