Van Gaal confident Manchester United will secure a UCL place

Louis van Gaal is confident Manchester United will qualify for next season's Champions League.

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admitted he is looking up rather than down the Premier League table after a 3-1 win over Aston Villa.

Two goals from Ander Herrera and a superb Wayne Rooney strike gave Van Gaal’s men victory on Saturday afternoon as they moved up to third in the Premier League table.

Chelsea’s win over Stoke means United are eight points behind the league leaders with seven games left to play, but the Red Devils still have Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City to play.

"We have to play against the first three in the league and normally when you play against better teams with more points it’s not done yet," he said.

"We are looking up and we have to win every week, but anything is possible.

"We have made a big gap to fifth and we can suffer a defeat.

"Liverpool is now eight points behind us and we are eight points behind Chelsea. We probably won’t be champions but we can give pressure."

The Dutchman praised his side’s first-half display against Villa as the hosts dominated possession throughout the match but struggled to break the deadlock until Ander Herrera’s opener in the 43rd minute.

United’s sixth league victory in succession moves them above Manuel Pellegrini’s City, who take on Crystal Palace on Monday, and Van Gaal was pleased to go in ahead at half time, although he felt his side dropped their intensity after the break.

"We created, in spite of the defensive organization of Aston Villa, a lot of chances in the first half," he said.

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"And we didn’t give any chances away so I was rather pleased with the performance.

"But in the second half we played too slow, and always when you don’t press the ball they can play the long ball, and [Christian] Benteke and [Gabriel] Agbonlahor are always dangerous."

Rooney scored a stunning volley to put the hosts 2-0 up before Christian Benteke pulled one back within 60 seconds to give Tim Sherwood’s men hope.

But Rooney was involved again in stoppage time, battling to win a drop-ball as he started the move which ended in Herrera’s second goal, and the United boss was pleased with the determination of the England man.

"I have to say there is nothing wrong with the mentality of Wayne Rooney, or his technical abilities because the goal was fantastic," he added.

"Also the assist – [Angel] Di Maria was only one or two minutes on the pitch and he already makes his 10th assist of the season, so it’s fantastic."

Next up for Van Gaal’s men is the crucial derby against Manchester City before they take on Chelsea six days later in a big week for the Red Devils.

And the Dutchman believes his side are better equipped for their two matches than for their previous encounters earlier this season.

"We’ve played once already this season against Manchester City and Chelsea – it was 1-0 for City and 1-1 against Chelsea, so we are very close

"I think we are playing better now than the beginning of the season, so I have a lot of trust in these matches."