Van Gaal wants improved performance despite results
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admits his side need to play better, but they will go in search of a third successive victory at Newcastle United on Tuesday.
United last managed that in November, when victory over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League followed by Premier League wins over West Bromwich Albion and Watford had everything in the Old Trafford garden looking rosy.
United, briefly, were second in the league, but after that they did not record another win until January 2, during which time they also limped out of the Champions League in the group phase.
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United have eased some of the pressure on Van Gaal by recording back-to-back home wins, but Saturday’s FA Cup victory over third-tier Sheffield United, secured by Wayne Rooney’s injury-time penalty, was far from convincing.
“The result is all right, but the performance was not all right,” said Van Gaal, whose side is ironically applauded by their own fans as they toiled to break down their third-tier opponents.
But as long as United keep winning, Van Gaal has a defence and his team are looking to record a fourth successive Premier League win over struggling Newcastle in meetings at St James’ Park.
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Victory would take United level on points with Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification place and host second-place Leicester City on Wednesday.
“As we enter the second half of the season the games come quickly, so we want to build and move up the league as fast as we can,” added Van Gaal. “This won’t be easy, but I know that we are all determined to do this.”
On the other hand, Newcastle manager Steve McClaren is under increasing pressure after his side’s poor recent league form transferred to the FA Cup with a third-round defeat at Watford.
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It is 412 minutes since they last scored and the reverse at Vicarage Road was their fourth successive 1-0 loss.
“We’re frustrated and angry at being out of the FA Cup, and we have to channel that in a positive way against Manchester United,” said the former Manchester United assistant coach.
Other matches of the day see Aston Villa go up against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth face West Ham.