! " # $

Sunday World - - World Of Sport - AFP MARC STRY­DOM

LOUIS van Gaal has guided Manch­ester United back into con­tention for a Cham­pi­ons League berth, but be­lieves fourth place in the Premier League should not be enough to earn a place in Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion.

Van Gaal’s side are now be­hind fourth-placed Manch­ester City only on goal dif­fer­ence and will be look­ing for a third suc­ces­sive league win at West Bromwich Al­bion to­day.

De­liv­er­ing a se­cond suc­ces­sive sea­son of Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball to Old Traf­ford would be seen as a suc­cess for Van Gaal, whose job ap­peared to be un­der ma­jor threat be­fore their re­cent re­vival, which has also seen them reach the last 16 of the Europa League and the quar­ter­fi­nals of the FA Cup.

But the Dutch­man, a Cham­pi­ons League win­ner as man­ager of Ajax, re­mains a sup­porter of the for­mer Euro­pean Cup for­mat, which saw only league cham­pi­ons take part be­fore the ad­vent of the Cham­pi­ons League in 1992 started to widen the field with a group stage and then more than one team per coun­try.

And Van Gaal would also op­pose the for­ma­tion of some form of Euro­pean Su­per League, be­ing mooted by some clubs on the con­ti­nent and, re­port­edly, dis­cussed loosely by the Premier League s big five” of United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arse­nal.

Ev­ery­body knows when you fol­low my ca­reer that I am against the Su­per League and some­thing like that,” Van Gaal said on Fri­day.

Sport is to be the best. When the Cham­pi­ons League was ex­ist­ing I said it was rub­bish be­cause the first and se­cond and third and fourth team is also play­ing. When you have a com­pe­ti­tion it has to be be­tween the cham­pi­ons. I said it 20 years ago and I say it now.

It is only com­mer­cially think­ing. When you are think­ing like a com­mer­cial dealer then of course you are right but I think sport is to win not to be se­cond or third.”

As well as fourth place in the league, Van Gaal also wants to bring a first piece of sil­ver­ware to Old Traf­ford since the 2013 league ti­tle won by Alex Fer­gu­son in his last sea­son, and he says the con­fi­dence of his team is grow­ing.

I am talk­ing to my play­ers about first be­liev­ing in it. I be­lieve in it but the play­ers have to be­lieve in that and they now un­der­stand that.

It [the top four] is still our aim but our aim is also to win a ti­tle and a ti­tle is win­ning the Europa League. Manch­ester United hasn’t won it so it would be fan­tas­tic for the club and the fans. Also Manch­ester United hasn’t won the FA Cup for many years and that is MFANA­FUTHI Prince Nx­u­malo is set to be called up to strengthen Bafana Bafana’s trou­ble­some strik­ing po­si­tion when the squad for two 2017 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fiers against Cameroon is an­nounced at Safa House on Thurs­day.

Mamelodi Sun­downs de­fen­sive mid­fielder Hlom­pho Kekana is also ex­pected to be picked. Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba faces tricky se­lec­tion posers for ar­guably the two big­gest games of his 20-month ten­ure.

South Africa be­gan their cam­paign with a 0-0 home draw against Gam­bia, fol­lowed by a 3-1 de­feat away to Mau­ri­ta­nia.

Bafana will likely need to beat Cameroon at the new Om­nis­port Stade de Limbe, 70km out­side Douala, on March 26, then again in Dur­ban on March 29.

In­jury and loss of form to the main strike com­bi­na­tion of Tokelo Rantie and Tham­sanqa Gabuza has left Bafana thin up­front.

Bournemouth striker Rantie is be­ing treated for a leg in­jury in South Africa.

Nx­u­malo, the se­cond top­scorer in the PSL with 11 goals in 16 games, and Gabuza may be a likely strike part­ner­ship against Cameroon.

Gabuza, who has a rep­u­ta­tion also fan­tas­tic.

A ti­tle is al­ways more than fourth po­si­tion but the Cham­pi­ons League is our aim and that is why the Europa League and fourth in the ta­ble are im­por­tant.

Mar­cus Rash­ford (18) is again set to lead United’s at­tack at West Brom. To­day s EPL matches: Crys­tal Palace vs Liverpool (3.30pm); West Brom vs Manch­ester United (6pm). for scor­ing in tough African con­di­tions even when in poor form in the PSL, was last year’s Caf Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup joint-top scorer with six goals.

He helped steer Or­lando Pi­rates to the fi­nal, where they lost to Etoile du Sa­hel. He has scored three goals in five games for Bafana, in­clud­ing in the matches away in Mau­ri­ta­nia and An­gola.

Kekana would be called up as cover for a cen­tral mid­field where Sun­downs team-mate Bon­gani Zungu is in­jured and Su­per­Sport United’s Dean Furman has lost form. Kekana has been in­flu­en­tial in Downs’ charge to a 10-point lead in the PSL.

He would part­ner Andile Jali in cen­tral mid­field. Jali re­ceived a sus­pen­sion in Bafana’s 3-1 World Cup se­cond round, first­leg vic­tory against An­gola in Novem­ber, but that does not ap­ply to Af­con qual­i­fiers.

Bafana s re­main­ing, and per­haps most con­cern­ing, trou­ble po­si­tion is at goal­keeper.

Itume­leng Khune is re­cov­er­ing from in­jury at Kaizer Chiefs, where Reyaad Pi­eterse has im­pressed in his ab­sence. Jack­son Mabokg­wane, the cap­tain against An­gola, has fallen be­hind in-form Shu-Aib Wal­ters at Mpumalanga Black Aces.

Bafana s most ob­vi­ous third choice, Bril­liant Khuzwayo, who played a game at the 2015 Af­con fi­nals, is be­ing kept out at Chiefs by Pi­eterse (24), who makes re­flex saves and is im­pos­ing un­der the high ball.

He might be ready for in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, but does Mashaba want to en­ter two such im­por­tant matches with a keeper with­out a cap to his name?

The same can be said of Mashaba s other op­tions in Wal­ters, Pi­rates’ Brighton Mh­longo and Max­i­m­il­ian Mbaeva of Golden Ar­rows.

For­mer Bafana goal­keeper An­dre Arendse be­lieves Dar­ren Keet, who has re­dis­cov­ered his form in Bel­gium, might be the best op­tion.

It’s hard to know how Keet has played be­cause we haven’t seen his 28 games. This, for me, is where any na­tional team coach has got to go and look at th­ese play­ers and see for him­self, Arendse said.

But the mere fact Dar­ren’s played all 28 games speaks vol­umes on its own.”

Keet has five caps for Bafana. He per­formed well in the 2015 Af­con qual­i­fiers tak­ing over the gloves af­ter Senzo Meyiwa’s death in Oc­to­ber 2014, no­tably hav­ing a blinder in the 2-2 away draw against Nige­ria.

But Keet had a night­mare in Bafana s 3-1 open­ing loss against Al­ge­ria at the fi­nals.

! " ! #

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.