Louis van Gaal has warned Manchester United’s defenders to step up their performance levels if they are to avoid a repeat of “the Andy Carroll show” against West Ham.
Carroll scored a superb hat-trick in his side’s 3-3 Premier League draw with Arsenal at the weekend to salvage a point after they had found themselves 2-0 down shortly before half-time.
United suffered a major blow to their top-four hopes a day later when they lost 3-0 to Tottenham, the goals coming in just six minutes late in the second half at White Hart Lane.
Van Gaal was left aggrieved at what he considered to be a lack of communication among his back four during that defeat and has urged them to improve if United are to progress from their FA Cup quarter-final replay.
“I saw the Andy Carroll show,” he said. “I think today our problem was also the miscommunication of our central defenders.
“I hope we’ve improved our communication because this game is very important for us. It’s our last chance for a title, so it’s very important for the players, the club, the manager, the fans.”
Van Gaal was keen to highlight the threat West Ham pose throughout their side, especially from playmaker Dimitri Payet, who scored a stunning free-kick in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
“Carroll has special qualities, we’ve seen that. That was against Arsenal who have great central defenders,” he said. “We have to cope with Andy Carroll but also with the other players, they have a certain player named Payet, for example. [Manuel] Lanzini can also play and score goals.
“Today we had to cope with Harry Kane, but also [Erik] Lamela, [Christian] Eriksen. It’s always difficult to cope with this kind of player at that level.
“And we have one day less than West Ham, which is also important, but we proved against Arsenal and Manchester City [in the Premier League] that we could beat them despite less days to recover. So I hope we recover very good, also mentally, because this [defeat] was a blow.”
With Champions League qualification looking difficult and with no other trophies to chase, talk has mounted that Van Gaal will be under greater pressure than ever to end United’s 13-year wait to lift the FA Cup.
But the former Netherlands boss rejected the idea that such pressure will be any less for Slaven Bilic’s side.
“I think the players of Manchester United have to cope with that pressure. And they’ve done it always. They know that every game in a cup is a match that you must win,” he said.
“I think West Ham also have that problem. So I don’t think that it [pressure] plays a role, because both teams know that, when you’re not winning, you’re out and you don’t have any title.”