Preparing for their FA Cup encounter against Yeovil Town, Manchester United manager Van Gaal believes that the FA Cup is probably their most realistic chance of winning a trophy this season and hence is willing to pull all punches to avoid another embarrassing defeat in a Cup tie.
Manchester United travel to Yeovil Town and will be looking for a strong performance to advance to the next round of the FA Cup. Van Gaal has describved the Cup as the ‘shortest way to success’ but believes that Cup ties are always bound to throw surprises. The manager also believes that the FA Cup means a lot in the football world and reiterated the fact that league places and divisions do not count for much in Cup ties.
“Yes, I think so. It’s the shortest way to success. You are right – we are very interested. And I think my players [are] also. In the Netherlands we have known for many years that the FA Cup is one of the most important competitions in football. The FA Cup was shown on the television over there at a time when it was not common to show matches from other countries. We know from our early exit in the Capital One Cup that league places mean nothing in the cups.”
The manager believes that Manchester United must put in all their effort into winning the FA Cup and recalled a suitable Dutch phrase to describe his preparations for the away fixture.
“In the Netherlands we have a saying: ‘death or the gladioli’, which means all or nothing and we will go into that match fully prepared.”
Van Gaal has refused to rule out Yeovil Town’s chances in the game and believes that Cup ties are always capable of surprising the players and the fans.
“I know that also [from managing] Ajax and Barcelona. It’s always a shock when you play against a lower team because you assume that you have to win but it’s not like that in football so I have lost with Ajax against a lower team and I have lost with Barcelona against a third-division team.”
“It’s a gladioli game. You are dead or you receive the gladiolus flower and in cup matches it’s always like that. You can win and you can lose and of course we have to win against Milton Keynes but we have lost so what we have learned from that game is what we always learn from games that we lose, what we have not done the right way.”
The manager refused to divulge any information regarding his line-up for the FA Cup fixture but claimed that his players are extremely tired after a hectic holiday schedule which means that he might rest a few key members of the squad.
“I have to look to the fitness of my players. We have played three games in seven days. But the game against Tottenham [0-0] was within 48 hours [of Boxing Day] so the cumulative lactic acid is bigger than ever.”
The manager also believes that the tie against a lower league team will be a different experience for the Manchester United squad and claims that a tie of this nature requires special preparation.
“Everything about playing a lower league team will be different – the pitch, the stadium. For the players, it’s more difficult to prepare for a match like this, especially after playing so much over Christmas.”
It now remains to be seen if Van Gaal can galvanise his team into winning a place in the next round of the FA Cup as the shadow of the defeat against MK Dons hangs embarrassingly over his shoulder.