Sunday 17 December 2017

Louis van Gaal demands big United response after meek FA Cup exit

Reds boss seeking win over Spurs to banish FA Cup blues


Out of the FA Cup and with Champions League qualification hanging in the balance, Manchester United's season reaches a pivotal stage in the Premier League on Sunday at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

Finishing in the top four and qualifying for Europe's top tier competition is now considered essential after Monday's cup exit to the Arsenal, but United's 10-game run-in to the end of the season also includes matches against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Fourth-placed United, who have 53 points from 28 matches, hold a slender two-point advantage over resurgent Liverpool, while Spurs are a further point back in sixth.

Tottenham have won at Old Trafford in the last two seasons having not previously tasted victory there since 1989 and they are unbeaten against United in their last five meetings.

The Manchester side can ill-afford another loss to Mauricio Pochettino's team but, after defeat by Arsenal exposed their much-discussed flaws, manager Louis van Gaal knows his side must recover quickly with a top-four finish at stake.

"All the players are very disappointed and that's logical," the Dutchman said. "We have to see how we recover from that.

"I can't say the motivation of the team was bad -- it's always good. We showed fantastic fighting spirit again.


"This is a big blow for us but we are sportsmen, so we have to recover."

Meanwhile, Adnan Januzaj has been spending extra time in the gym in an attempt to bulk up and become faster.

Januzaj enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season under David Moyes last year, but he has struggled to make the United XI on a regular basis since Van Gaal took over.

The 20-year-old has started just seven Premier League games under the Dutchman, although a change in formation - and the poor form of Angel Di Maria - means the Belgian has gained more playing time on the wings as a substitute recently.

Januzaj revealed recently that he prefers to operate as a number 10, but Van Gaal looks set to continue playing him out wide given that Di Maria is suspended for Sunday's game against Tottenham.

And the slight Belgian has been putting in the hard yards in the gym to ensure he is capable of taking on and beating defenders for pace. "I do a lot of work in the gym. I am trying to be faster and stronger so I can be tougher when I go out on the pitch," Januzaj said.

"I am doing a lot of short, sharp stuff so, when I turn a defender or go past a player, I can just get a few metres away from them with my acceleration."

United may have lost just two of their last 18 Premier League games, but Van Gaal has come in for criticism because of the team's style of play.

Former Barcelona and Chelsea assistant, Henk Ten Cate, who spent a year with Van Gaal while he was doing his training badges, thinks United should stick with his compatriot though.

"You have to give him time because, for me, he is one of the best coaches there is," Ten Cate said. "I worked closely with him for one year when I was going through the stages to get my coaching licence. I saw what he was doing and the only thing he has to do is get used to the way of playing in England.

"If the owners of the club gave him that much confidence and that much money to spend, it is not a good thing to say goodbye to the coach after one season because it is starting to become his team.

"He needs a little more time but I am almost positive that he is going to surprise Britain with his (style of) football."

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