Van Gaal: We'll silence noisy neighbours Man City
Louis van Gaal revelled in dealing a blow to Liverpool’s Champions League hopes and then started plotting how to beat Manchester City in next weekend’s derby.
Van Gaal’s Manchester United strengthened their Champions League aspirations with a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The win moved United ahead of their ‘noisy neighbours’ into third position and they will stay there if City lose at Crystal Palace on Monday.
The most significant impact of Saturday’s result related to Liverpool, however.
Three weeks ago Liverpool were two points behind United but they now lie eight points adrift after damaging back-to-back defeats at Old Trafford and at Arsenal, where they lost 4-1 on Saturday lunchtime.
With United on such good form, Van Gaal is optimistic about not only qualifying for the Champions League, but finishing as high as second or third in the standings.
“We can look up in the table. The next match is for the second position or the third, I think,” the United boss said.
“It is still a rat race but we have given a blow to Liverpool, they lost again and so did Southampton so it’s a big gap, but we have to play against the top three (around us).”
As Van Gaal points out, United have to play Chelsea, Arsenal and City in their final seven games.
A few weeks ago, when United were grinding out results with unimaginative and quite often dull football, those fixtures would have been viewed with fear.
But after five successive league wins, United have their tails up and if they play like they did on Saturday, they will fancy their chances of ending City’s run of four successive Manchester derby wins when they come to Old Trafford next Sunday.
Wayne Rooney’s neat turn and volley was the pick of the goals, but Ander Herrera earned the man of the match - and a kiss from his jubilant manager - following a well-taken brace. Herrera, remarkably, started just two Premier League games between the end of September and February, but he has become an indispensable member of the team of late, starting the last seven games. The £29m midfielder has added goals to his game too, taking his tally to seven for the season thanks to a crisp half-volley in the first half and a first-time drive to round off the win in injury time. “It was a great day, one of the best in my professional career,” Herrera said.
“It’s the first time I have scored twice in (one game in) my career, so I am very happy.
“It is my top-scoring season. Now, I want to keep scoring more to help the team.”
Other than Christian Benteke’s consolation, Villa offered little on the attack and they are now in serious danger of being sucked back into the relegation zone. Tim Sherwood will be looking for an immediate response tomorrow night when his team host relegation rivals QPR, who hammered West Brom 4-1 this weekend.
“It’s a massive game for us,” the Villa boss said. “They got a good win on Saturday. It was a great result for them. But we’re aiming to put six points between us and them by the end of that game.”