Optimism again among Red Devils

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal gestures towards Jesse Lingard during their FA Cup fifth-round tie with Shrewsbury. The midfielder scored the third goal to help United to a 3-0 win and progress to the quarter-finals where they will face fell
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal gestures towards Jesse Lingard during their FA Cup fifth-round tie with Shrewsbury. The midfielder scored the third goal to help United to a 3-0 win and progress to the quarter-finals where they will face fellow Premier League side West Ham.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FA Cup win gives van Gaal hope his team can clinch Europa League despite first-leg defeat

LONDON • Louis van Gaal insists Manchester United still have "a lot of chances" for success this season as they prepare to face Midtjylland in a crucial Europa League tie.

United extended their FA Cup run with a comfortable 3-0 win over Shrewsbury on Monday to secure a meeting with West Ham United in the quarter-finals.

And van Gaal has now begun preparing his side for tomorrow's crucial home game with Midtjylland as they try to overturn an embarrassing 2-1 deficit from the away leg in Denmark.

The United manager's future remains uncertain despite the win against third-tier Shrewsbury, and van Gaal admits tomorrow's fixture at Old Trafford is a significant occasion.

"It is in my opinion a big game because it's a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season (by winning the Europa League)," he said.

"But we have to win a lot of matches, of course.

IN WITH A FIGHTING CHANCE

We have to win a lot of matches, of course. It's easily spoken about but doing it is different... Still everything is possible, we're still in three competitions, so we have to fight for a lot of chances.

LOUIS VAN GAAL, Man United manager, on the possibility of qualifying for next season's Champions League by winning the Europa League.

"It's easily spoken about but doing it is different. But it is possible and then we'll see.

"Still everything is possible, we're still in three competitions, so we have to fight for a lot of chances I think."

Chris Smalling scored United's first on Monday and Juan Mata got the second with a contentious free-kick routine that van Gaal claimed they had learnt from watching Midtjylland.

Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial all stood offside initially, behind the Shrewsbury wall, before running out as the Spaniard ran up to strike the ball.

Lingard got United's other goal on an evening when it could hardly have been more comfortable for van Gaal's team, as they dominated against a Shrewsbury side who are 21st in League One and never looked like imposing themselves.

But the Dutchman believes United will not get the credit they deserve for a dominating win.

"Everybody shall say it is against Shrewsbury Town and Manchester United have to win but we have seen very difficult results in the FA Cup," he added.

"The top team do not always win... So I think we have done it fantastically, I have congratulated my players, I was very pleased but now we have to beat Midtjylland because it is also possible to beat them.

"It is not easy because Midtjylland are very well organised, we have seen that in the away game."

Van Gaal could have first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea fit to face the Danish minnows after he suffered a knee injury during the warm-up for the first leg.

But the Dutchman confirmed that his injury crisis has worsened on Monday.

He is already without 13 first-team players including captain Wayne Rooney, Matteo Darmian, and Phil Jones.

And he could now lose another three for the game ahead, with Will Keane, Lingard and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson all doubtful after picking up injury problems against Shrewsbury.

United actually finished the game with 10 men - and nine fit players - because van Gaal had used all his substitutes.

The manager was also quick to point out that United were Premier League title challengers prior to their injury problems.

"I think in March a lot of players are coming back and then we'll have a full selection, and with our full selection we were first in the Premier League," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'OPTIMISM AGAIN AMONG RED DEVILS'. Print Edition | Subscribe