ED KINGDOM, April 17 – Louis van Gaal admitted Manchester United’s latest contribution to the race for the Champions League was not enough to get Old Trafford excited.
Yet the United manager believes his side’s stodgy 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday — a result that confirmed the Birmingham club’s relegation from the Premier League — was enough to send out a message to Manchester City and West Ham.
The three clubs are set to battle it out for the final place on offer to English teams in next season’s Champions League via fourth spot in the Premier League.
While a laboured display against Villa will not have frightened their rivals, United manager Van Gaal said a 1-0 win that came courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s latest goal will have made the Hammers and City sit up and take notice.
“It was a marvellous goal,” said Van Gaal of 18-year-old Rashford’s seventh goal in 12 first-team appearances.
“I agree that we have to give more entertainment for the fans but the most important thing was to win the game,” the Dutchman added.
“We have to look at Manchester City and also West Ham and Southampton and we have made it very clear today that we want to win.
“But of course it was not the best match of Manchester United this season.”
Rashford again provided the spark in an otherwise underwhelming United display, yet the teenager can prepare himself for a rest at some stage after van Gaal revealed he considered leaving out the 18-year-old against Villa.
Nevertheless, Van Gaal still made five changes from the FA Cup quarter-final replay win against West Ham including the return to the starting line-up of England striker Wayne Rooney after injury.
“Because of that intensive game I changed five players in the line-up so that already has an influence,” said the United manager.
“But I was surprised that we could not lift ourself because we played at too slow a tempo.
“I wanted to change Rashford also and I have thought that for a long time.
“He is also young and he has played however many matches but in the end I didn’t want to do that because I wanted to take profit of his momentum and he was very positive.
– Villa disconnect –
For Villa, defeat rubber-stamped the drop to the Championship that has long seemed inevitable.
Players were again lambasted by travelling fans but caretaker manager Eric Black believes the effort they showed at Old Trafford is the first, tiny step to repairing the rift between supporters and the club.
“It is official it’s a sad, sad dressing room and it’s difficult,” he said.
“They worked really hard today, but it’s not today that has caused it (relegation) and it’s difficult really.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down, take it on the chin and try to get this club back to where the majority of people think it should be.
“I thought we worked really hard and I don’t think anybody can point any fingers in terms of effort and willingness to get sweat on their shirts.
“They deserve the credit. It’s under devastating circumstances but the job and the rebuild has to work now.
“I can understand the disconnect and with the season we have had there is going to be a disconnect.
“Supporters want to support their team. They don’t want that disconnect.
“I think now the club will do their utmost to show the supporters we’re going in the right direction and that’s the only way we can get the supporters back on side.”