English Premiership

Anfield win will fire title belief, says Van Gaal

2016-01-18 10:00
Louis van Gaal (Supplied)
Louis van Gaal (Supplied)

Liverpool - Manchester United's smash-and-grab 1-0 victory at Liverpool will strengthen conviction that they can yet end a difficult season as Premier League champions, according to manager Louis van Gaal.

Wayne Rooney's 78th-minute goal at a chilly Anfield on Sunday earned United an opportunistic win over their arch rivals, which left the 20-time champions seven points below leaders Arsenal in fifth place.

United had been second-best by some distance until then, but following a run of four straight defeats over Christmas that saw Van Gaal's position called into question, they are now unbeaten in five games and their manager believes the title is still a viable objective.

"I think to beat Liverpool is always important and today (Sunday) it was important because our competitors have lost points," he said.

"When the gap is seven points, you can oversee (overcome) that. So that's what I'm thinking.

"We have a lot of matches still to go. We started 2016 very good with a lot of wins, a draw (3-3 at Newcastle United), and we didn't lose.

"I think this game shall give a big boost to the players, to the fans, to everybody in the environment of Manchester United.

"We have to continue. That's not so easy. We have seen that today, but we can do it. We show every week that we can do it."

Castigated in some quarters for his performances over the first half of the season, Rooney has become the figurehead of United's mini-revival, scoring five goals in his last four appearances.

He was a peripheral figure against Liverpool until the hosts switched off at a corner, allowing Marouane Fellaini to head against the bar from Juan Mata's cross, and when the ball dropped in the six-yard box, the United number 10 reacted quickest to lash home the winner.

"A striker who scores is always very important," said Van Gaal.

"Now he's scoring in a row and we are winning in a row. It's always like that. I'm very happy for him, but also for Manchester United and for the fans, because everyone wants to see Rooney scoring."

United lost auxiliary right-back Ashley Young to an apparent groin injury late in the first half and Van Gaal admitted to "overloading" the former Aston Villa player due to injuries to his other full-backs.

"I don't think it's a very worse (bad) injury, but we have to wait and see because I am not a doctor," said the Dutchman.

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10 December 2016
Watford v Everton, Vicarage Road Stadium 14:30
Arsenal v Stoke City, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Hull City v Crystal Palace, Kingston Communications Stadium 17:00
Swansea City v Sunderland, Liberty Stadium 17:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 17:00
Leicester City v Manchester City, King Power Stadium 19:30
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Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
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Liverpool v West Ham United, Anfield 18:30
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