United can still be in thick of title race – Van Gaal
about 3 hours ago / Reuters
LONDON – Victory at Chelsea on Sunday would put Manchester United back in Premier League title contention, manager Louis van Gaal said on Friday as the former champions were again linked with Jose Mourinho.
Fifth-placed United are 10 points behind leaders Leicester City with 14 games remaining and the Dutchman, buoyed by a 3-0 home victory over Stoke City last weekend, said his side should not be counted out.
United finally produced some much-needed swagger at Old Trafford to give Van Gaal breathing space as his future continues to be the subject of media speculation.
“The competition is still not finished,” Van Gaal told reporters on Friday.
“It is not finished for Manchester United and not for other teams,” he added before an unsourced report surfaced in the Manchester Evening News saying the club had held talks with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s agents about the Portuguese replacing Van Gaal next season.
“I feel that if we beat Chelsea, and that is not simple, our league [challenge] shall start again. That’s important.”
Van Gaal said he had good reason for optimism after the win over Stoke followed an FA Cup victory at Championship team Derby County.
“We have the feeling because we are winning two times in a row and with sparkling football, goals and clean sheets,” he explained.
“This against opponents in great form. Stoke played Liverpool off the pitch in the Capital One Cup, for example, even though they lost on penalties.
“We have to show it though, in a row of games that you win, because in this competition anything is possible.”
United continue to be without a host of injured players although Van Gaal said there was now “some light at the end of the tunnel”.
Phil Jones has returned to training and is in contention to play against champions Chelsea while long-term absentees Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia were “making progress”.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is still out. The German midfielder has missed the last five games after suffering a knee injury against Sheffield United on 9 January.