Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United: Louis van Gaal needs them to go fourth and multiply

By Andy Hampson

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has stressed the importance of maintaining momentum but is taking nothing for granted against Stoke City.

United are seeking a fourth successive Barclays Premier League win as they host the Potters this evening.

The Red Devils have been inconsistent since Van Gaal took charge in the summer but the Dutchman reflected on their most satisfactory performance to date after Saturday's one-sided 3-0 win over Hull.

The result ensured they maintained fourth place in the table and Van Gaal now wants to make sure they kick on.

The 63-year-old said: "Winning, for a top club like Manchester United, is the most important thing in a week, or in a day.

"Especially when we are in fourth position in the league table you have to win, otherwise others shall overcome you.

"Of course I had hoped that we would win on Saturday but we have to win also against Stoke City.

"But in the Premier League nothing is easy. When you see Liverpool struggling against Stoke City - (scoring in the) 85th minute - that shows you how tough the game will be. You see Arsenal struggling against West Bromwich Albion - they could also have lost.

"Every game is difficult. That is why the Premier League is exciting, because you never know. There is an atmosphere in the stadiums (that is) fantastic and the fans are always supporting their club, until the end. That is fantastic. That is why I want to work in the Premier League, because of that, the atmosphere."

United will be without forward Angel di Maria after the Argentinian pulled up with a hamstring injury early in the clash against Hull on Saturday.

The club are still to learn the full extent of that problem but captain Wayne Rooney is expected to be fit after banging his knee on an advertising hoarding late in the game.

Striker Radamel Falcao might also be pushing for a start after coming off the bench to play the latter stages on Saturday following his recovery from a calf injury.

Van Gaal said: "He was not fit to play 90 minutes, but for 20 minutes okay. I can use him because now he has trained for a full week with the first team. He needs match rhythm."

Van Gaal, however, could opt to retain Robin van Persie, who responded to criticism of his recent form by scoring a superb third goal against Hull.

Injuries have meant it has been difficult for Van Gaal to field a settled side but former England midfielder Michael Carrick is hopeful problems can be overcome to maintain the encouraging winning run.

Carrick says: "It was a good performance and a good win. We controlled the game from the start and played some really good football. Hopefully there'll be more of the same on Tuesday night.

"Our downfall this season is that we've had to change the team too much, because of so many injuries, and we haven't had a consistent run with this squad. Hopefully that will change now and it's nice to have a game so quick so we can keep that momentum going."

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