Manchester United face defining period after FA Cup exit


MANCHESTER: Manchester United will begin a five-game period which could define their season when they seek to recover from the bitter disappointment of their FA Cup exit in a Premier League clash against Tottenham on Sunday.

After the meeting with Spurs at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal’s side take on Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in their next four games as the battle intensifies to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

Aston Villa are the other team United must face in that period but van Gaal is in little doubt that, with only 10 games left in the season and with Arsenal having ended United’s interest in the FA Cup quarter-finals last Monday, this span of games will be crucial.

“You are right. It is very decisive, the coming matches,” van Gaal said.

“Of course, after a defeat at home, it is also important to see the reaction of the team.

“We play against a very good team in Tottenham. We are so close with a lot of clubs. We can be second or third. It is not a big difference I believe.

“Manchester United has to be one of the teams who has to play in the Champions League. We have seen that this year. It is not good, surely, if it is the second year (without Champions League football).

“But it is always possible because you never win every game and there are a lot of clubs who are going for it. But we have the confidence to reach the goal that we have set at the beginning of the season.”

Van Gaal must decide whether to continue with Wayne Rooney in attack.

After abandoning the use of the England centre-forward in a midfield position, van Gaal has seen his player score three times in as many games but has warned that Rooney is not guaranteed to remain up front.

“Now, in this moment, I think it is better to play Rooney (in attack),” he said.

“But it can be another line-up on Sunday. It depends on what I see, the game plan of my opponent and then also from the suspensions I have or the injured players.

“I have said that Rooney is a striker who can also play in midfield. He has shown that. He has also played – once – as a defensive midfielder.” (AFP)