Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal urged his players to put the disappointment of Europa League elimination by Liverpool behind them by defeating Manchester City in this weekend’s derby.
United were knocked out of the Europa League in the last 16 after a 1-1 draw at home to their arch-rivals on Thursday condemned them to a 3-1 aggregate defeat.
Their exit cut off one potential avenue to Champions League football next season and with United four points behind City, who occupy the fourth and final qualifying berth in the Premier League, Van Gaal knows that defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday could be fatal.
“We have to beat Manchester City because that is the other chance to qualify ourselves for the Champions League,” he told his post-match press conference at Old Trafford.
With the FA Cup now the only competition United can win, Van Gaal was asked if failure to overcome Liverpool had increased the pressure on both him and his team. “The pressure was also today,” the embattled Dutchman replied.
“Manchester United always has pressure. The expectations are always high. The pressure for these players is always very high. We know that and we can cope with that. But we were not lucky today (Thursday).”
Trailing 2-0 after last week’s one-sided first leg at Anfield, United halved Liverpool’s aggregate deficit in the 32nd minute when Anthony Martial lured Nathaniel Clyne into a rash foul and scored the resulting penalty.
But Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool’s two-goal cushion on the stroke of half-time with a goal that manager Jurgen Klopp described as “genius” — the Brazilian leaving Guillermo Varela for dead and then dinking a shot past United goalkeeper David de Gea at his near post.