Football: Cup win crucial for Manchester United - LVG

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal during training.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal during training.PHOTO: REUTERS

While it won't match entry to Champions League, he says team deserve silverware

LONDON • Louis van Gaal could become the first manager since Alex Ferguson to win a trophy for Manchester United today, and while the Dutchman has always acknowledged Champions League qualification would have been more important to the club, he believes silverware is a reward his players deserve.

"Silverware is always important, because it is an exciting moment to be close to winning a trophy," van Gaal said.

"A qualification is not a title but a Cup win would be. The players can look at the Cup and hold it - it would be an achievement - but at the moment we are only close and close is not enough.

"For Manchester United this would be a big title, I think, the first Cup win since 2004, but we still have to beat Crystal Palace to win it and finals can never be predicted."

He believes he knows what to expect from Alan Pardew's team. The 64-year-old Dutchman said: "It will not be so easy to beat them, they have a lot of quality.

"They will defend against us and try to use their speed on the counter-attack. They are also dangerous from set pieces. More than 50 per cent of their goals this season have come from set plays, and that is a lot more than us."

Partly for those reasons van Gaal fears the final may not be an open, attacking spectacle.

"You need two attacking sides for a fantastic match," he said. "Our starting point will be to perform well and try to win. I understand the fans like finals to be exciting and full of goals, but as long as we win, one-zero would be enough for me."

Marouane Fellaini is available again after serving a three-match suspension for elbowing Robert Huth, and van Gaal almost certainly plans to use him, in part because his height and physical attributes are useful when defending free kicks and corners.

It would be a surprise if van Gaal were to leave him out, though the manager preferred to remain coy on the subject. "You will have to wait and see," he said. "If I say something about that, Alan Pardew might be able to guess my line-up."

Pardew, meanwhile, expects to sign a new contract with Palace before leading his team out at Wembley as they seek to secure the first major silverware in their 111-year history at United's expense.

Terms were agreed with the manager in February over extending his stay at Selhurst Park beyond the expiry of his current deal, which runs to the summer of 2018.

He hopes to sign a contract - most likely until 2021 - that would also see a rise in salary, believed to be around £1.5 million (S$3 million) a year at present.

If Palace win today, then Pardew would be only the third English manager to lift the trophy in the Premier League era.

"It will not just be good for me and the club to win it but good for English coaches," he said.

"English coaches and managers get a bad press. As an English manager, I'm coming closer than anyone for a long time. It gives me an opportunity to try and win it."

Asked about his team's chances, he said: "I think the pressure is on them all the time because it's Manchester United.

"It's a historical club. They have their famous colours and the history, the iconic names that you would associate with Manchester United that we haven't got - George Best, Bobby Charlton.

"We don't have them associated with our football club, your Alex Fergusons, so it's a different history that they take into the game.

"The history we take into the game is one final which we lost, so this team, this group of players, have got the opportunity to put something permanent there and that is the first major trophy for Crystal Palace Football Club."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Cup win crucial for United: LVG'. Print Edition | Subscribe