Football: Red Devils want derby victory

Philippe Coutinho, who scored a crucial away goal for Liverpool in the 1-1 Europa League last-16, second-leg draw, turning on the style against Manchester United's Daley Blind and Michael Carrick. United are sixth in the Premier League, two points be
Philippe Coutinho, who scored a crucial away goal for Liverpool in the 1-1 Europa League last-16, second-leg draw, turning on the style against Manchester United's Daley Blind and Michael Carrick. United are sixth in the Premier League, two points behind West Ham and four behind Man City, whom they visit tomorrow. PHOTO: REUTERS

United must beat cross-town rivals to keep hopes of Champions League football alive

LONDON • Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has urged his players to put the disappointment of Europa League elimination by Liverpool behind them and go out and defeat Manchester City in tomorrow's derby.

United were knocked out of the Europa League in the last 16 after a 1-1 draw at home with their arch-rivals on Thursday condemned them to a 3-1 aggregate defeat.

Their exit cut off one potential avenue to Champions League football next season and, with United four points behind City, who occupy the fourth and final qualifying berth in the Premier League, van Gaal knows that defeat at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow could be fatal.

"We have to beat Manchester City because that is the other chance to qualify for the Champions League," he told his post-match press conference at Old Trafford.

With the FA Cup now the only competition United can win, the Dutchman was asked if failure to overcome Liverpool had increased the pressure on him and his team.

PRESSURE ALWAYS ON

Manchester United always has pressure. The expectations are always high. The pressure for these players is always very high. We know that and we can cope with that. But we were not lucky today.

LOUIS VAN GAAL, Man United manager on whether he and his team are under added pressure following their Europa League exit.

"The pressure was also today," the embattled manager replied. "Manchester United always has pressure.

"The expectations are always high. The pressure for these players is always very high.

"We know that and we can cope with that. But we were not lucky today."

Trailing 0-2 after last week's first leg at Anfield, United halved Liverpool's aggregate deficit in the 32nd minute when Anthony Martial lured Nathaniel Clyne into a rash foul and scored the resulting penalty.

But Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool's two-goal cushion on the stroke of half-time with a goal that manager Juergen Klopp described as "genius" - the Brazilian leaving Guillermo Varela for dead and then dinking a shot past United goalkeeper David de Gea at his near post.

The game's closing stages played out to a soundtrack of crowing chants from the away fans, but van Gaal felt that his team had dominated to the same extent that Liverpool had in the first leg.

"We played like Liverpool played in the home match with us," said the United manager, who was presiding over his 150th European game.

"We created a lot of chances. We scored a penalty. (Jesse) Lingard, (Juan) Mata, (Marouane) Fellaini, Martial had chances, and then you concede one goal in the last seconds. That's what we did not do in Liverpool. They scored the away goal and that was the difference."

He added: "I am not angry, I am not frustrated. I was very proud of my players. They have given everything."

While van Gaal braced himself for more inquests about his United stewardship, Klopp remains on course to finish his first season at Liverpool with a trophy in his hands.

"Phil (Coutinho) had a genius moment, wonderful," beamed the German, whose side will play his former team Dortmund in the quarter-finals. "It was brilliant, what he did. It was the most unexpected thing you could do in a situation like this and it was a perfect goal."

Klopp became the first Liverpool manager to avoid defeat on his first trip to Old Trafford since Graeme Souness in October 1991.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Devils want Derby victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe