Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal conceded that his side’s chances of finishing in the top four are all-but over after their 2-1 loss to Sunderland.
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A first-half goal from Whabi Khazri and an own-goal from David de Gea ensured that United slipped to their seventh loss of the season, which in turn leaves them six points adrift of the top four ahead of the remaining fixtures this weekend.
With the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham likely to stretch that gap even further over the next 48 hours, the situation is certainly looking bleak from a United point of view.
When asked about their predicament in his post-game interview, Van Gaal conceded that perhaps the Europa League was indeed now their best chance of getting back into the Champions League next season, with the winner of the tournament being granted a spot at Europe’s top table.
However, the Dutchman was also keen to stress that he didn’t believe that would be easy either given the level of opposition already in the competition. Coupled with captain Wayne Rooney’s dejected manner in his interview on BT Sport, it will certainly do little to buoy United fans in the coming days.
Both men appeared resigned to the fact that their chances of finishing in the top four are slim, but with 12 games remaining this season, they still arguably hold faint hopes of closing the gap and at least putting pressure on those above them.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal insisted that the result wouldn’t put more pressure on him in the next week or so, as he will return to work with the squad and hope that they can get a positive result in the Europa League against Midtjylland on Thursday night.