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Saturday 10 December 2016

Van Gaal not fazed by inconsistent United

United boss insists Arsenal 'on another level'

Louis van Gaal. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Louis van Gaal. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Louis van Gaal is unconcerned by Manchester United's topsy-turvy displays ahead of the visit of an Arsenal side he considers "on another level".

This has been a tough season at Old Trafford, where there have been more troughs than peaks as the club continue to fail to reach the heights scaled under Alex Ferguson.

However, Thursday's Europa League 5-1 thrashing of FC Midtjylland provided some timely relief, especially with old foes Arsenal arriving for a Premier League encounter just days after the 5-1 win.

That victory ensured United's name was in the hat for yesterday's last 16 draw, where they will face bitter rivals Liverpool for the first time in European competition.

But van Gaal is more focused on the matters at hand, namely tomorrow's clash with the Gunners, which offers United the chance to go on a three-match winning run for just the fourth time this season - a statistic that crosses the competitions and underlines United's inconsistency.

Van Gaal was dismissive when asked about that, though, instead pointing to the injury crisis that has enveloped his side, and outside perceptions of his team.

"It's football - you can win, lose or draw," he said. "The media is inconsistent. That's different. It is the media.

"Yeah, Sunderland we didn't lose because of the media, that is true. But the media makes it bigger than it is. And always.

"Five-one Manchester City lost against Chelsea, and what was then?"

Van Gaal laughed when it was pointed out that City fielded a team of youngsters and those on the periphery in the FA Cup defeat.

"Oh, is that the second team?" he asked. "And what am I doing now then?

"It is unbelievable, it's the same, but we don't lose with such a difference.

Damaged

"You have to analyse the results of Manchester United.

"We have only lost one game three-zero to Arsenal, and they're on another level, in my opinion."

United's attempts to avoid a similar shellacking to the title-chasing Gunners have been damaged somewhat by a lengthy injury list, which Anthony Martial joined during the warm-up on Thursday.

Marcus Rashford was thrown in at the last minute and flourished under the Old Trafford floodlights, netting a crucial double on his debut.

The 18-year-old striker could get another look-in if Martial fails to recover from a hamstring complaint, with questions remaining over the Frenchman's fitness.

"I cannot say that but it is not so heavy as everybody thinks, but you never know," Van Gaal said.

"I am very happy with (Marcos) Rojo, that he played 10 or 15 minutes, and how he showed already his form and shape. He was very good, I think.

"But I have to build him up in the games and that's not so easy because he only had two training sessions with me - the first day with the second team and the second day with us.

"I take also a risk to do that but I think I have to do that now with 15 minutes and then 30 minutes, like that. I hope we can build him up.

"Also (Antonio) Valencia and (Marouane) Fellaini are coming back, and in the month of March a lot of players are coming back, and then we have a strong selection again.

"Therefore, this match is very important, I think, for a lot of players."

Chris Smalling is another doubt for the clash with Arsenal, although goalkeeper David de Gea should return after a three-match injury absence.

"I expect (De Gea) because I saw already that he was today..." Van Gaal said, before moving onto Smalling. "Chris is a question mark with his shoulder but you never know."

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