LONDON, December 29 – Louis van Gaal believes Manchester United are still in the Premier League title race despite missing a chance to close the gap on the top two.
Van Gaal’s side paid the price for their failure to convert a number of first half chances when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Tottenham on Sunday.
That meant they stay 10 points behind Chelsea, who were held by Southampton, and seven adrift of second placed Manchester City, who were also frustrated in a draw with struggling Burnley.
Van Gaal admits his side cannot afford a repeat of this wasteful display.
But he is confident United are improving and capable of reeling in Chelsea and City during the second half of the season.
“When you cannot win such type of matches when (you are the) better team –- like against (Aston) Villa and also now — then it is very difficult to be the champions at the end of the season,” Van Gaal said.
But asked if he still believed his side could be champions, he said: “Still, because we are improving every week.
“Of course, of course, we shall be better in 2015. So watch.”
Van Gaal claimed it was impossible for his injury-hit squad to maintain top form having beaten Newcastle 3-1 just two days earlier.
“When you play your best first half of the season as Manchester United and you are playing in White Hart Lane and playing a top six club and you play like that and create six to eight open chances then you have to finish them,” he said.
“If you don’t reward yourself, normally the opponent wins.
“You could see also the difference in the second half. It was not football anymore and a struggle for life.
“I have said already a month ago. It is scientifically proven that (the) body cannot recover in 48 hours.
“When the Premier League allow that to play matches you see what it is like, the second half is much different to the first.
“Not only for Manchester United but also Tottenham Hotspur. I think Tottenham could have played much better than today.
“Manchester united could also, in the second half, have played much better. But you cannot do that in the second half.”
– Signs of progress –
Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris kept his side in the game during the first half but United’s David De Gea was prominent after the break.
United survived late Spurs pressure to maintain a clean sheet and Van Gaal believes that is another sign of his side’s progress.
“I asked David de Gea how many clean sheets he had and now he has six already,” he said.
“So maybe now you will remember what some people said at the beginning of the season. It is a matter of organisation I think.”
Meanwhile, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino acknowledged the demands of playing two games in quick succession, but refused to complain.
“The condition was for both teams the same. We never complain about when the opponent has the same condition as you,” he said.
“For Tottenham, from the beginning of the season, is the team that has had less recovery days in every competition.
“I never complain about that. I think Manchester had the same hours to recover as us.
“We showed we are more solid as a team. It is true in (the) first half they had most chances but in the end the result is fair.
“Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and I repeat that every week. That’s not new for me.
“The clean sheet is important. I think that always you need to improve. But I am happy with the performance.
“I am very pleased because the players made a big effort today less than 48 hours after playing again. Therefore I think the effort was great.”