Manchester United: Van Gaal happy ‘we are talking our opponent and not about my sacking’

Louis van Gaal has had to deal with questions about his status constantly this season – but with his Manchester United side eyeing some significant achievements is momentarily relieved of that.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal shown before his team's last Premier League match against Norwich on Saturday. Stephen Pond / Getty Images / May 7, 2016
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Amidst a volatile season at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal has often spent more time defending his job security than talking tactics.

Now, with a chance to usurp fourth place from rivals Manchester City and a looming shot at the FA Cup trophy, he’s happy the focus has shifted back to his team’s – rather than his – fortunes.

"It is the first time we are talking about our opponent and not about my sacking," Van Gaal said ahead of his team's all-important Premier League contest with West Ham United.

“Thank you, thank you for that.”

United are looking to dampen a second West Ham farewell to Upton Park inside a month when he takes his top-four chasing club to East London on Tuesday night.

The fixture will mark the last at West Ham’s current home ahead of their summer move to the Olympic Stadium on a night where emotions among everyone involved with the club will be sky high.

But Van Gaal's United side go there knowing victory in their final three games of the season would mean a top-four finish and an FA Cup trophy, with neighbours Manchester City now in their sights.

Marouane Fellaini, however, was one of the best players on the park as he scored in United’s recent cup win at West Ham – and the Belgium international is still serving out a three-match ban and will be forced to sit out this time around.

• Read more: Manchester United out to ruin West Ham's farewell at 'special' Upton Park

• Also see: Steve Luckings – Forget about Leicester – What about topsy-turvy season for the rest?

Van Gaal conceded losing the midfielder could have a detrimental effect on his side’s defensive capabilities, especially if they come up against Andy Carroll.

“Yes that is true,” he replied when asked about Fellaini’s absence, given he marked Carroll at every West Ham set-piece in that game.

“We are normally the smallest team in the Premier League so we always have problems with set plays.

“We have to cope with that and you are right, I can not deny that.

“Yes. I am very worried about that. I am always organising. We always have a meeting about that - every game - and it also takes a long time to organise it well.”

United won 2-1 in an FA Cup sixth-round replay at Upton Park on April 13, in what was the final game at the ground for the famous competition.

And now Van Gaal, whose saw United win 1-0 at Norwich City on Saturday, is more interested in taking a valuable three points than setting out with the ambition of spoiling another momentous evening for their hosts.

Asked if United can use the emotion of the night against West Ham, the Dutchman replied: “Yes it is a big night. I think the players shall feel that also.

“Tuesday we have to play against an opponent who says goodbye to the stadium. So they won’t want to lose in their own stadium.

“They have already lost to Man United in the FA Cup match. That is also history. That is not good for us. And West Ham United is a very good team.

“We have a lot of respect for West Ham. I think it is a historical big club in England and so we don’t want to spoil their party but we need the three points and that is different.”

Both Daley Blind and Marcus Rashford were left behind for the trip to Norwich as Van Gaal looked to rest his most weary troops, and he also lost Anthony Martial in the warm-up at Carrow Road before Matteo Darmian was stretchered off early on with an ankle injury.

“That always depends on the data of my fatigue specialist,” he replied when asked if Blind and Rashford would return at West Ham.

“I have to decide then on the data of my fatigue specialist who I am taking with me. It is always like that. It can happen that I leave players at home as they are too tired.

“At Norwich the difference between last week and today, it was six degrees or something and now it is 25 degrees. There is a big difference and you have seen it on the faces of the players, not only Man United but also those of Norwich.”

It also remains to be seen if Martial will be fit to return, after Van Gaal confirmed it was more a precaution to not play him at Norwich.

“I cannot say that (he will come back) as we have to wait,” he added.

“We have to wait if his muscle is still tight as I don’t take any risks as he is a very important player. We don’t want a rupture. That is very important for us.”

Louis van Gaal may rest Anthony Martial for West Ham trip

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial may be rested for Tuesday’s Premier League trip to West Ham United to avoid aggravating a hamstring injury, manager Louis van Gaal has said.

The 20-year-old pulled up while warming up for Saturday’s 1-0 win at Norwich City that closed the gap between fifth-placed United and fourth-placed Manchester City to two points, with Van Gaal’s men having a game in hand over their local rivals.

The French international has enjoyed a solid start to his United career since signing from Monaco in September, scoring 15 goals in all competitions, and his absence will be a blow for a side that can ensure a top-four finish if they win their last two games.

“If his muscles are still tight I don’t take any risks because he is a very important player. We don’t want a rupture and that is very important for us,” Van Gaal told a news conference.

“I cannot say (if Martial will play) because we have to wait.”

Van Gaal also urged his side to focus on beating West Ham and ignore the feverish atmosphere at what will be the final game at the Boleyn Ground ahead of the Hammers’ move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

“On Tuesday, we have to play against an opponent who says goodbye to the stadium so they don’t want to lose,” the Dutchman added. “It’s not good for us and West Ham United are a very good team.

“We don’t want to spoil their party but we need the three points. It is a big night and I think the players shall feel that also.”

United end their season at home against Bournemouth on Sunday.

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