MANCHESTER: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said on Friday that big-name players would still want to come to Old Trafford even if the club failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat by West Ham left United fifth in the Premier League table, just outside the top four Champions League spots on offer to English clubs, heading into Sunday’s final round of domestic top-flight matches.
Now United must beat Bournemouth and hope fourth-placed Manchester City lose to Swansea on Sunday if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
Such is City’s vastly superior goal difference that a draw, barring a freakishly huge United win, would see them into the Champions League at their local rivals’ expense.
But Van Gaal insists that United’s ability to attract players will not be affected by their possible failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
And the Dutchman is pressing ahead with close season plans and drawing up summer transfer policy with the club’s hierarchy, despite the intense scrutiny over his own future at Old Trafford.
“Last year we were also in that situation and in the end we qualified,” Van Gaal said.
“And still there were players that I wanted that we didn’t purchase because you are dependent on a lot of circumstances. I can’t discuss that with you because it’s a question for the board not the manager.”
– Creative players –
Van Gaal, however, acknowledged that FA Cup finalists United must improve their attacking play next season.
“I am always evaluating and always adapting to the situation where we stand for,” he said.
“It’s always the same, you have to evaluate yourself but also your staff and players, and then with that kind of people you have to communicate and listen to each other and that I’m doing. That shall be done also next season.
“The principles are always the same, except when one of the members of my staff or players or board members can convince me of other arguments.
“I can say that we have to improve still. I don’t think we have to improve defensive organisation too much, now we have to score more in our attacking way.
“That is also what I have said before this season –- we need creative fast players in attack. We have to change that, and that is very important.”
Van Gaal was not mentioned by United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward as he announced financial figures on Friday that showed the club were on course to earn more than half a billion pounds in a single year.
Neither in a written statement nor in a subsequent conference call with investors — which reporters could listen to but not participate in — was Van Gaal referred to amid ongoing speculation he could be replaced by his one-time Barcelona assistant and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
However, Woodward stressed the importance of United’s youth system, something which many fans felt Van Gaal only reluctantly called upon when an injury crisis left him with little choice this season.
United’s reputation for producing their own first-team players dates back to the 1950s and Woodward said on Friday: “As we look back on our season, I am delighted by the emergence of our young players.
“In the last two seasons alone, some 15 players from our Under-21 squad have appeared 130 times in our first team.
“Marcus Rashford made an immediate impact, scoring goals on his debut in Europe and then two more on his Premier League debut against Arsenal.
“Three of our regular first-team players — Rashford, (Jesse) Lingard, (Cameron) Borthwick-Jackson — are locally-born academy players, who have been with the club since they were eight-years-old.”