United are back in title race after win: van Gaal

Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal (left) shakes hands with assistant manager Ryan Giggs as they celebrate at full time.
Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal (left) shakes hands with assistant manager Ryan Giggs as they celebrate at full time.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Louis van Gaal says that Manchester United can still win the English Premier League, after his side secured three points away to Liverpool thanks to their only shot on target.

The United manager went into Sunday's match under pressure after a string of unimpressive performances had left them outside the Champions League places. And, while the nature of the 1-0 victory will do little to placate his critics, he suggested that a title challenge could follow.

Wayne Rooney's powerfully struck 78th-minute winner lifted United to 37 points, seven behind Arsenal and Leicester City, the joint leaders. It was United's second league victory in 2016. Van Gaal's team are unbeaten in four matches in all competitions this year.

The gap to the top has closed for United after Arsenal's goal-less draw at Stoke City on Sunday followed Leicester dropping two points at Aston Villa on Saturday.

"To beat Liverpool is always important," van Gaal said. "It was important because our competitors have lost points."

Asked if he believed United could win the championship, the Dutchman said: "We are seven points behind now. We have a lot of matches still to go.

"We started 2016 very good with a lot of wins - this game will give a big boost to the players and the fans and the environment of Manchester United.

"You have to see it always in perspective. It is for the fans, for me and the players a fantastic win and it will give us a boost."

Although Liverpool were the better side for most of the match, Juergen Klopp's team failed to take their chances.

However, the manager dismissed suggestions that Liverpool have an urgent need to sign a striker this month.

With Christian Benteke once again reduced to the role of impact substitute, Klopp began the game with Roberto Firmino up front in a starting XI who have scored six Premier League goals all season. Liverpool's lack of punch in attack was evident throughout.

The Reds manager was willing to admit to his disappointment that Liverpool had lost a game because of their failings in front of goal. But he maintained that he does not feel the need to enter the transfer market in an attempt to correct their attacking weaknesses and will instead continue to seek improvement on the training ground.

"It is frustrating, because there were many things that were good, but our finishing was not good," he said. "It's easy to say that with another player we would have scored, but we should not think about it at this moment.

"At the end, we missed a striker to score the goal, but I don't think that it's the problem."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'United are back in title race after win: van Gaal'. Print Edition | Subscribe