Manchester United have dropped to the sixth spot on the points table after six matches without a win, but manager Louis van Gaal is still aiming to win the English Premier League (EPL).
United enjoyed their last EPL victory on November 21 at Watford. They have lost three of the six matches since, but produced an improved performance in the goalless draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday.
They will next face relegation-threatened Swansea City at home on Saturday and van Gaal feels that sixth-placed United have a strong chance of closing the gap on league leaders Arsenal and Leicester City.
United are currently on 30 points while both Arsenal and Leicester City have 39. But Arsenal lead Leicester on goal difference.
“We need to win because we want to be at the end at the top of the league and not in the middle. We have to get points, otherwise the gap is too big and that is why we have to do what we have to do. Work, do the things, prepare the game, perform and then evaluate the game again. That is much more difficult when you don’t win. All the things you say as a manager is more accepted (when you win),” van Gaal was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
The 64-year-old Dutchman admitted that United are under pressure to re-ignite their tittle challenge, but asserted that the players will have to live up to the challenge.
“Pressure is what you experience yourself and by the players. Most important are the players because they have to perform. They have to give everything and that is the most difficult aspect. That is the players’ function. You have to show it for 90 minutes against the resistance of the opponent and also under the pressure of the environment and the pressure you put yourself under. You have to cope with that,” he said.
Van Gaal does not have happy memories of his meetings with Swansea as United have lost to the EPL strugglers in all their previous matches under his guidance. But with Swansea struggling with their form in recent matches, van Gaal is confident that United are in with a chance.
Swansea picked up only their second win in 14 EPL matches against West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day.
“I was three times losing against Swansea, and then you have to evaluate why you lost,” Van Gaal said. “It is always like that, then you continue with the same vicious circle of working. There is no magic. It is looking at what has happened and what can improve, as a team but also as an individual player,” van Gaal said.
“You make a game plan to beat your opponent and then you have to convince your players. Then you have to train and then you have to be convinced. Then you can be committed and try to perform it,” he added.