Louis van Gaal targeting revenge against Norwich
MANCHESTER UNITED'S primary aim this weekend is to stay in the hunt for a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League - but Louis van Gaal insists revenge is also on the menu.
United are four points adrift of neighbours Manchester City, who occupy the final Champions League place, but have played one game fewer. Van Gaal believes his Red Devils need to take maximum points from their three remaining matches to stand a chance of jumping the queue, but when they head to Norwich for Saturday's early kick-off there is an additional motivation.
Arguably the highlight of the struggling Canaries' season came in December when they won the reverse fixture 2-1, courtesy of goals from Cameron Jerome and Alexander Tettey. And Van Gaal would be happy to exact a measure of payback.
"We have to win our matches because, otherwise, we cannot be in the first four - that's the pressure that we have. We have to fight until the end," said the Dutchman.
"They [Norwich] won at Old Trafford, so we have to take revenge also. It's always difficult to fight against a team that fights to maintain their position in the Premier League from relegation. That's always very difficult to fight against, but that is not an excuse. We have to cope with that. It shall be a very tough game but, in spite of that, we have to win."
United's home defeat to Norwich came during a bleak winter that saw Van Gaal under severe scrutiny, pressure which has never quite dissipated, even as results improved. At the nadir, United were winless in all competitions for eight matches, including the entirety of December.
It is a period the manager looks back on with no fondness, citing mounting injuries as a partial reason for the slump - but he accepts there has been a season-long issue with despatching lesser lights.
Of United's nine league defeats, five have come to teams in the bottom half and a total of 12 points have been lost to the five sides at the foot of the division: "I always talk about facts, not about hypothetical circumstance and activities. I can only say that, in the end of November, we had first position, after that we had a big decline," said Van Gaal.
"It's a big damage, but the month of December has its own reasons for that. You have to cope with that, that is what we have to do. But when the injuries are so much in the same position, you cannot solve every problem anymore.
"These are the facts. But you can never say that, if we didn't have so many injuries, that we would be first because I have great respect for the champions, Leicester City. When I say we had injuries, it's not respectful to the champions and they deserve it.
"But you see what we have done against the top five, you can see what we have done against the bottom five and that is not a good average."