Louis van Gaal claims it was unrealistic to expect Manchester United to win the Premier League and admits his job security is uncertain heading into the final game of the season.
United can still qualify for the Champions League with a top four finish, but only if fourth placed Manchester City fail to collect a point at Swansea and van Gaal’s fifth placed team beat Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Defeat at West Ham in midweek took the chase for fourth place out of United’s hands and left them facing the prospect of a season out of Europe’s top tier competition.
But, frustrated by United’s long injury list, van Gaal feels their run to next week’s FA Cup Final against Crystal Palace and involvement in the battle for a European berth should be enough to keep him in his job for the third and final year of his contract.
“We can win the FA Cup,” said van Gaal. “How many are still in the race?
“It’s not so many, so of course if we don’t qualify ourselves, then we haven’t reached our aim.
“That is true because our aim was to qualify, but we are in the final of the FA Cup and we are in the race in the last match – mathematically, we can qualify ourselves still.
“How many teams can say that? Not many. Of course you can say Manchester United need to be champions.
“Yes, I know the expectations are like that but I don’t think that is realistic.
“And I have said I shall be here, that is my opinion, so the board has to decide if it is like that. That is a different way of looking to the situation.”
– Unrealistic –
Van Gaal’s claim that hopes of a United title success are unrealistic ring somewhat hollow in a season in which low-spending Leicester have won the league with comparative ease.
But there have been few indications from within the United hierarchy over the identity of their manager next season amid speculation Jose Mourinho could be set to take charge.
On Friday, executive vice chairman Ed Woodward spoke with investors on a telephone conference call and failed to mention van Gaal or his fate even once.
However, consensus has grown that should van Gaal finish fourth, and lead United to their first FA Cup success since 2004, that will be sufficient to keep him in the job, not that the manager himself wished to talk about the hypothetical possibilities of his situation.
“That is ‘if’ and I want to stick to the facts,” he said.
“Also when it is positive for me it’s not good, you can only talk about the facts, and the facts are that we are still fighting for Champions League qualification.
“We are still fighting and for the FA cup, and then we shall see what the board is doing.
“We are dependent on Manchester City, that’s the difference, that’s also frustrating when you had the chance, two matches before the end, to keep that advantage.
“We were 2-1 ahead with 15 minutes to play and then we gave it away, but still it is possible. We fight until the end.”
Bournemouth’s refusal to be dragged into the relegation fight was an impressive feat in their first ever top-flight campaign and manager Eddie Howe is convinced his players will not let up despite having little to play for.
“We won’t need motivating for this one,” Howe said.
“Whenever you play Manchester United it’s a historic occasion, so I am sure the players will be chomping at the bit to get out there.
“It’s nice to be involved in games that mean something. We are a competitive team and relish that side of it, so it’s a game we are all really looking forward to.” – Agence France-Presse