Football: Van Gaal gives up European Cup hopes

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal walks off dejected after the game between West Ham United.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal walks off dejected after the game between West Ham United. PHOTO: REUTERS

Manager concedes strong defence alone won't help United win Champions League

LONDON • Manchester United do not let in many goals but their manager will concede this much: The Red Devils are not ready to win the Champions League.

Louis van Gaal saw his side keep a clean sheet against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday but they also failed to score again.

Five of United's past nine matches in all competitions have ended goalless - a statistic that does not bode well for them ahead of their Champions League clash at Wolfsburg tomorrow.

Only victory against the Bundesliga side will secure United's place in the round of 16. But, even if they progress, van Gaal cannot see them lifting Europe's biggest club prize this season.

  • 0-0

  • Manchester United's draw with West Ham was their fifth goalless draw in their last nine games in all competitions. Louis van Gaal has drawn 13.2 per cent of his Premier League games in charge of United 0-0. It is the highest percentage of any manager in the club's history.

"I don't think that we are able to win the Champions League now," he said.

"Maybe next year, when we strengthen our selection again.

"But now we have to come as much as possible and maybe we can beat everyone, that I am sure. And we have proven that already, also in the Premier League. But, normally, we are not good enough to win the Champions League.

"When we are there, we shall try to do everything but you also have to be realistic.

"I'm happy with my squad now but we can strengthen the selection still in (certain) positions, for example, the left-back position is not so (well) covered."

United will travel to Germany with more injury problems as both midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and defender Paddy McNair were injured at Old Trafford on Saturday. Wayne Rooney has already been ruled out.

McNair's departure at half-time meant a United debut for full-back Guillermo Varela after the 22-year-old was included in a matchday squad for the first time.

United's rearguard held firm although West Ham twice hit the post and had one-on-one opportunities for both Victor Moses and Mauro Zayate.

At the other end, the hosts had just one shot on target from a tally of 21 attempts.

Not for the first time this season, disgruntled United supporters chanted "attack, attack, attack" during the game and booed van Gaal's side off at the end as they remained unbeaten at home this season but slipped to fourth in the Premier League.

"When you create these kind of chances, you have to finish. But you can't say we played badly," insisted van Gaal, who has drawn 13.2 per cent of his Premier League games in charge of United 0-0. It is the highest percentage of any manager in the club's history.

"The most important aspect of football we didn't do.

"My opinion about scoring goals is not only about composure but also a lot of luck.

"I'm not so worried but we have to pass over this period because it is too long that we don't score."

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic claimed United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger should have been sent off for what he said was an elbow to defender Winston Reid in an off-the-ball incident just before half-time.

"It is a moment of madness, he deserved to be sent off. But the referee told me he didn't see it, which is fair enough.

"I believe it," Bilic said.

"They had chances, of course, but we deserved a point."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'VAN GAAL GIVES UP EUROPEAN CUP HOPES'. Print Edition | Subscribe