Louis van Gaal: last 16 place a difficult task after PSV draw
United must beat Wolfsburg away to guarantee qualification
Louis van Gaal believes securing a place in the last 16 of the Champions League will be difficult after Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at home with PSV. Photograph: Reuters
Louis van Gaal came up with a variation on Sven-Goran Eriksson’s old “first half good, second half not so good” routine when describing the dire Manchester United performance that looks likely to cost them a place in the Champions League knockout stage.
“In the first half it was average and in the second half it didn’t improve, despite all the changes I made,” the United manager complained. Those changes involved sending on Marouane Fellaini as a target man and Juan Mata for an almost insulting six minutes at the end, but Van Gaal dismissed criticism of his original lineup.
“You always get those sort of questions after a disappointing result,” he said. “I thought with the lineup I selected we had the best chance to win but you never really know.”
Realistically United are now going to have to knock out Wolfsburg to make progress, when they meet the Group B leaders away from home in a fortnight. At least Van Gaal did not underestimate the difficulty of that task, or hide from the fact this final home game represented the best chance of securing qualification.
“The result was disappointing because I felt we could have finished this game,” Van Gaal said. “We had chances in each half, Jesse Lingard especially. I thought we could have scored at least three goals against PSV and they were not difficult chances.
“So now we have to win in Wolfsburg and that will be difficult but we have already beaten them at home and at least we are still second in the group, in a qualifying position. Our away record is better this year as you know, but we will have to play much better than this. I think it would have been easier to secure qualification tonight when we had the chance.”
The PSV manager Phillip Cocu was not counting any chickens but, with both sides needing a win to progress, Eindhoven clearly have the easier task on paper with a home game against the bottom-placed club. CSKA Moscow could qualify for the Europa League with victory over PSV, though that is all they have left to play for.
“We have a great opportunity to get out of the group but it is important not to take anything for granted,” Cocu said. “I was happy with the performance at Old Trafford but we are not there yet. United wanted to dominate the game that is their style, but as the game went on and they could not score a goal they were not so dominant.
“They could not find a solution, how to break us down, and towards the end maybe they did not believe they could do it.”