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United winning the title? THAT'S NOT REALISTIC; MAN UTD v BOURNEMOUTH; Van Gaal admits his PS250m squad lacks potential to become champions.


LOUIS VAN GAAL has claimed it is not "realistic" for Manchester United to be champions - despite spending more than PS250million.

Van Gaal goes into tomorrow's final day of the Premier League season with United poised to miss out on the Champions League for the second time in three years.

Victory over Bournemouth will not be enough to finish fourth, if local rivals Manchester City avoid defeat at Swansea, consigning United to the ignominy of the Europa League.

Van Gaal has presided over regression in his second season at United, relying on others for their Champions League fate and with only the prospect of FA Cup glory as potential salvation.

Against that backdrop, Van Gaal acknowledged his future is uncertain, admitting it will be up to the board to decide if his efforts this season warrant him staying on to see out the final year of his contract.

But, having claimed expectations were "too high" a fortnight ago, Van Gaal risked the wrath of United fans again by claiming it was fanciful to think of them as potential champions.

"We can win the FA Cup. How many are still in the race? How many? Of course, when we don't qualify ourselves for the top four, then we don't reach our aim," said Van Gaal.

"That is true, because our aim was to qualify, but we are in the final of the FA Cup and we are in the race for fourth, going into the last match, so mathematically we can qualify still.

"How many teams can say that? Not many. Of course, you can say Manchester United need to be champions. Yes, I know the expectations are like that, but I don't think that is realistic."

Given Leicester's title triumph was built on a fraction of Van Gaal's total transfer spend, United fans are entitled to feel aggrieved at their manager's perceived lack of ambition or faith in his squad.

Van Gaal has bemoaned the lack of height, creativity and pace in his squad, but has had two years and a huge budget with which to address those issues - and has failed to do so. United are on 63 points, one less than they managed in the ill-fated season under David Moyes, and will post their lowest Premier League goal return, having plundered just 46 this term, some way short of the 58 in 2004-05.

Allied to the Champions League exit, from one of the easiest groups in the tournament, the meek Europa League defeat to arch rivals Liverpool and the stodgy, insipid football served up, it has been an often joyless season for United fans.

United squandered the chance to stay in control of their top-four fate, blowing a 2-1 lead at West Ham on Tuesday to lose 3-2 in the last game at Upton Park, a slip-up that could cost them PS40million in lost Champions League revenue.

Acknowledging that failure, Van Gaal said: "We are dependent on Manchester City, that's the difference. That's also frustrating when we had the chance to keep that advantage two matches from the end."

Van Gaal knows United must improve next season, but whether he is the man to oversee that process remains to be seen, with his former protege Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings to take over.

"I can say that we have to improve still," said Van Gaal. "I don't think we have to improve our defensive organisation too much, but we have to score more goals and improve our attacking way.

"You have to evaluate yourself but also your staff and players, and that I'm doing."

Van Gaal will also find himself under evaluation from United's board, with the Dutchman looking increasingly vulnerable, even if he does end the season bagging the FA Cup, to deliver the first trophy of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

For Van Gaal, it's looking increasingly like Champions League or bust.


MAN UTD: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Rooney, Martial, Rashford

BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Surman, Artur, Gradel, Wilson, Grabban

REFEREE: Jon Moss TV: Live on Sky Sports 1, 2.30pm

Adnan Januzaj (hamstring), Matteo Darmian (ankle) and Marouane Fellaini (ban) are all out for United. Ashley Young is still recovering, while Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Luke Shaw (leg) remain sidelined.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has no fresh injury or suspension worries. Adam Smith (groin) is unavailable, while Sylvain Distin (back), Tyrone Mings (knee) and Tokelo Rantie are out long term.

LVG has moaned about his squad's lack of creativity and pace, but he's had a big budget to fix that


NOT GREAT EXPECTATIONS Van Gaal used his press conference yesterday to downplay United's prospects
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 14, 2016
Previous Article:Momentof truth for under-fire Van Gaal; LOUIS' MOMENT OF TRUTH.

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