United’s Van Gaal targets key win at Wolfsburg
Louis van Gaal says Manchester United only have themselves to blame ahead of Tuesday’s winner-takes-all clash at Wolfsburg as they bid to avoid an early Champions League exit.
Van Gaal’s Red Devils must beat Group B leaders Wolfsburg to ensure their place in the knockout stages having allowed the Germans to usurp them at the top of the table by being held to a goalless draw at home to PSV Eindhoven a fortnight ago.
Leaders Wolfsburg will reach the knock-out stages for the first time in the club’s history with just a draw, while United, who are a point behind, know anything less than a win could see them eliminated.
However, United could still qualify even if they draw or lose to Wolfsburg, provided PSV do not better their result at home to CSKA Moscow in the other group match.
But Van Gaal wants to leave nothing to chance in Germany.
“We have a huge Champions League match at Wolfsburg,” Van Gaal told the club’s United Review magazine.
“After the disappointing result against Eindhoven at Old Trafford, we now know what we have to do in order to progress to the knockout stages of the competition: win.
“We have not made it easy for ourselves, but we know that victory in Germany will not only guarantee qualification, but also ensure we finish top of our group.”
Finishing top of Group B will mean United avoid the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the last 16.
United lost at the same stage four years ago when a 2-1 defeat at FC Basel saw them bow out in the 2011/12 group stage and Van Gaal’s side is still looking for their first away victory in the group for this campaign.
United’s overall away record against sides from Germany is won five, lost five with four draws.
Their fans will have good memories of their last trip to Wolfsburg when former England striker Michael Owen scored a hat-trick in their 3-1 win in December 2009 as the Red Devils reached the quarter-finals.
Diego Benaglio and Marcel Schaefer are the only survivors in Wolfsburg’s first team and VfL have lost seven in a row against Premier League clubs in Europe.
Their last home defeat to an English club was a 2-0 loss to Everton last season in the Europa League’s group stages.
During his two-year reign as Bayern Munich coach, Van Gaal was unbeaten in four encounters with Wolfsburg, winning three of them.
Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to play his first game for the Red Devils in Germany since transfering from Bayern Munich.
United were held to a goalless draw by West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday which left them fourth in the Premier League table, while Wolfsburg suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Dortmund on Saturday.
In all competitions, Wolfsburg have lost just four of their last 42 home games and have a 100 per cent record there in the Champions League this term.
“We have to win the game to progress, so we have to get back to business and prepare for what is a huge game for us,” said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking as his side look to keep their dreams alive of reaching the knockout stages.