United aiming for title next year – Van Gaal
A strong second half to this campaign has lifted Van Gaal’s team to the brink of a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League next year — a far cry from the disappointment of last season under David Moyes when they finished seventh.
Other managers, including West Bromwich Albion’s Tony Pulis, have predicted that United will be competing even higher up the league table next season, an analysis with which the Dutchman agrees.
“The board of Manchester United have given me three years for that objective so yes, it’s correct,” said Van Gaal.
“Okay, this year we are not challenging but we are very close to second position.
“I think Chelsea are far above other clubs but next year can be different. Next year we will also have a different squad — not only us but Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and the other clubs who are battling for first position.
“We have seen in the matches between the top clubs this season that it’s not a big gap.”
– Better preparations –
Van Gaal believes a busy summer in the transfer market, along with better preparations on this coming summer’s pre-season tour to the United States, will enhance his team’s title bid.
Last close season, the Reds embarked on a gruelling five-city tour of the States that proved exhausting and led to United making a terrible start to the campaign, collecting just 13 points from the opening 10 games, their worst opening to a season in 28 years.
This summer, Van Gaal has insisted on United remaining on the west coast of the US, based only in Seattle and San Jose and with far less travelling involved.
“We need better balance in our (team) selection but also Manchester United have adapted to a better (pre-season) preparation,” said Van Gaal.
“We shall have two base camps in the United States so we are not flying between matches, we are going by bus and that’s better.
“The temperature is lower because we’re on the other coast to last year so they have adapted to my criteria and we shall have better preparation.
“We have started very badly this year because when you cut the start off, we shall equalise Chelsea (in the table). So we have to start better.
“When I previewed our preparation now it looks better but we have to see of course. Then we have to make the balance in our selection better and then we have to perform better than this year.”
The United manager is also conscious that his team has suffered badly from a crippling injury list this season that has so far seen 68 different incidents of players missing games through injuries.
“I have said there are many circumstances that you can find as the reason because of the injury list,” he said.
“In the second part of the season we had much less injuries and then we made the points already. That’s what we can improve, but injuries are part of the job. Football is a sport of resistance. We can have injuries.”