Manchester - Louis van Gaal is finally on the verge of
having a clean bill of health within his Manchester United squad after a long
season battling against a crippling injury list.
And with the United manager aiming to clinch a Champions
League place for his club, and contending for the FA Cup via a home
quarter-final tie against Arsenal, that could spell bad news for his rivals.
United have lost just one of their last 19 league and cup
games, an extraordinary transformation following last season's troubles under
David Moyes and a slow start to the current campaign.
That run has come despite a long list of injured players,
one which is slowly improving to the point that only England international
midfielder Michael Carrick is unavailable for selection.
It is a far cry from the early season when van Gaal would
routinely have 11 first team players unavailable, and the Dutchman could barely
conceal his enthusiasm at the prospect of having a fully-fit squad from which
"We are very close to that stage," said van Gaal.
"In the first four months I started only to select from out of the fit
players. And, as you know, I always had 10 or 11 players injured.
"Now, the last month, I only have one or two players
and now only Michael Carrick is injured so that's a big difference.
"That's also because of the way of training, also the
players had to adapt to the way of training, and now that's complete. That's
the big difference with the beginning of the season."
Van Gaal has had his critics in his first season in charge
of the club but has nevertheless presided over a remarkable upturn in fortunes
and he believes that his first team players have now got over the difficulties
of getting used to a new management style and have bought into his footballing
"Now I believe every player knows the philosophy of me
and my staff," said van Gaal. "You can see that in the team spirit of
the team, it's unbelievable.
"The confidence is the same now as then because we had
just come back from the United States where we had won everything against big
"But now, when you look at the scores of the last 15 or
20 matches, we are the best team in the Premier League so I think the
confidence is also high.
"The difference with the beginning of the season is my
players know and have experienced much more playing in our system with our
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