Manchester United can postpone Leicester’s party but not spoil it, according to Louis van Gaal.
The Foxes travel to Old Trafford on Sunday where victory would give them a stunning first Premier League title.
But United are also desperate for three points to close the five-point gap to Arsenal and Manchester City as they chase Champions League qualification.
Van Gaal’s side have finally found some consistent winning form, claiming victory in six of their last seven matches to keep the pressure on in the league and reach the FA Cup final.
Leicester are unbeaten in nine and the United boss has no doubt that they will end up lifting the trophy, with games against Everton and Chelsea still to come.
He said: “I think we have to beat them because we are still in the race for fourth position. We cannot allow that they are the champions this weekend at Old Trafford.
“I think they shall be the champions a week later. We don’t spoil the party, only postpone it a little bit.”
Who is playing for their Man Utd future?
The Old Trafford career of Manchester United’s second longest-serving player is coming to an end. Last year’s decision to hand him a one-year extension was questionable, this year it would be unjustified. It’s time to call it a day.
One of the quieter disappointments of Louis van Gaal’s tenure. Rojo has rarely, if ever, put in an above-average performance and cost his team too often. A tournament-inspired signing if ever there was one and likely to go out the door with his manager, who has also disappointed after an eye-catching World Cup.
His season has been, to put it in the kindest terms, ‘mercurial’. Brief, perhaps very brief, glimpses at his talent have been outweighed by truly anaemic, gutless performances. His youth should be enough to dissuade the club’s hierarchy from cashing in but Depay will need to show a serious volte-face in his second season to turn his Old Trafford fortunes around.
In truth, if Jose Mourinho takes over at Old Trafford as expected, there may be little that the Spaniard can do to convince his new manager that he should be kept on. His fate, in that sense, may be sealed. Nevertheless, Mata can hardly claim to have fully established himself at Old Trafford and still has a number of doubters. A few weeks in his preferred no. 10 role could do him a world of good.
Quite easily the most unpopular man at Old Trafford on any given matchday and this season, that’s saying something. He wants to do well, that’s clear, but he simply does not have the requisite technical quality and tries to make up for it by elbowing people. His time’s up.
Alongside Tyler Blackett, McNair provides the stand-out argument against those who uncritically praise Van Gaal’s promotion of youth. Sadly he, nor Blackett, are good enough and should not have been relied upon so much at points during the Dutchman’s first season. In truth, both may have already made their last appearances for United.
Surprisingly, the young full-back still has not been tied down to a long-term contract, despite his impressive performances since breaking into the side. Talks are understood to have begun but Borthwick-Jackson’s contract expires in June and his future won’t be certain until the dotted line is signed.
His brilliant 2011/12 campaign established him as a firm favourite among supporters but his surrender of the no. 7 shirt the year after marked him as a player who sometimes struggles with a weight of expectation on his shoulders. Ever since, he’s been a figure on the fringes and only on the odd occasions that he’s fit. Sell up before his contract expires next year.
Packed off on loan to Borussia Dortmund, sent back early after starting just three times and just two substitute appearances since his return. It’s all a far cry from having three football associations fight over your international allegiance. Where Januzaj goes next is unclear but he acts a forewarning to the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford – consistency, not just youthful exuberance, is needed to prosper at United.
The Belgian-born Brazilian has shown his talent at times but, like Januzaj, seems to be another academy product who’s stalling in the reserves while others prosper. He needs with a loan move to gain competitive minutes, perhaps on the continent, or he risks complete stagnation.
Van Gaal bristled at the suggestion his players would find it chastening to play in a match where the visiting team were the ones chasing the title.
The Dutchman cited a lack of titles among his squad, although the facts do not back up his assertion.
Van Gaal rather embarrassingly picked out David De Gea as a player who has not won a title with United, even though he was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League champions in 2013.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick have both won the Premier League five times with United; Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have all won it at least once, while Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Memphis Depay have been title winners overseas.
Van Gaal said: “The players that we are now playing, they are not used to being the champions. I don’t think (Matteo) Darmian is used to being the champion, and De Gea was never champion.
“Memphis Depay was champion last year, so not many players. Rooney, Carrick, they have been the champions once and maybe more, but you have to see always the situation where a club is.
“It is a process of transition and now we are fighting for qualification for the Champions League and we are still in the FA Cup. We have to fight for something and we shall do it. Hopefully we can beat Leicester City.”
Leicester’s remarkable season has stunned football, but Van Gaal insisted the Foxes’ exploits have not been a total shock to him.
The Dutchman praised his opposite number Claudio Ranieri, whom he first battled against when the pair were at Barcelona and Valencia respectively in the late 1990s.
Van Gaal said: “It was always difficult to beat his teams. He has always organised his teams very well.
“I was the first that said that they could be the champions. For me it’s not any surprise. I’ve seen it many times and I believe in team building and this manager has done that with this team.
“Of course they had the circumstances to play always with the same team, they didn’t play so many matches as the other teams in the Premier League, so it is always possible.
“They have confirmed it and I think it is also good for the Premier League and for the sport of football that not always the same teams are the champion.”