Louis van Gaal says a win over Chelsea on Sunday would reignite Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes after their “sparkling” wins over the past week.
United followed up a 3-1 FA Cup victory away to Derby County with a commanding 3-0 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford, in which they scored in the first half at home for the first time since September.
Van Gaal’s side are 10 points behind leaders Leicester City ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge, yet the manager is confident that a win over Guus Hiddink’s much-improved Chelsea will give their title aspirations a shot in the arm given their recent improvement.
“It’s always better when you win and certainly when it’s with a very good performance and three goals,” he told the media on Friday. “It shall give a big boost to the players. You can see that in the training sessions.
“I have the feeling that if we beat Chelsea – and that’s difficult, since Hiddink is there, they don’t lose any more – then our league is starting again, so that’s very important.
“Michael Carrick said to me today and I have the same feeling. The competition is not finished, for Manchester United or anyone else.
“We have the feeling and that’s because we won two times in a row with sparkling football, with goals, clean sheets against opponents in great form.”
Van Gaal believes United’s form will continue to get better as a number of injured players edge closer to a return to first-team football, with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo nearing fitness.
“You have to solve problems that you cannot solve. And we had that period in December,” he added.
“Now the players are coming back, they are fit again, so I can continue how I started the season. And maybe you remember we were first.
“Of course [December could cost us], I said at the time that you have to analyse the circumstances. Maybe you remember that. I mean what I said.
“You cannot prevent contact injuries and we were very unlucky. We don’t have muscle injuries, only contact injuries, and when you don’t have full-backs any more you have problems.”
Luke Shaw was named in United’s Europa League squad this week, and Van Gaal says the full-back can aim to be fit for the final in Basel in May, as he continues his recovery from a broken leg.
“He can play the [Europa League] final – I’ve said that to him. It’s a goal he has to live for. It’s not impossible,” the Dutchman continued.