Wayne Rooney insists that Manchester United cannot afford to look past their game at Newcastle United tonight after boss Louis van Gaal admitted they were in a ‘rat race’ for Champions League qualification.
The Red Devils could drop out of the top four if they fail to record just their fourth away victory of the season at St James’ Park ahead of a challenging run-in.
They face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in their last ten games, and the United skipper is desperate to be involved in Europe’s elite competition next year.
“It’s what you want to be involved in and that’s why there’s a lot of excitement around the teams that are fighting for the Champions League spots,” the England captain told MUTV.
“It is tight – there are four or five teams who can all go on a run and take the spots. We have to make sure that we are one of them, keep trying to win our games and stay in a good position.
“However we can’t look past Wednesday. Newcastle away is always a tough game and we want to come away with three points.”
Despite losing just two of their previous 21 games, United have failed to find the fluency which was ever-present during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.
Van Gaal is aware that their rivals for Champions League qualification are finding form at the right time.
“You can see that Liverpool have returned to form, just as we came back into the rat race. This all adds up to make it very exciting for the fans,” the Dutchman said.
However, he is drawing positives from the Reds 3-1 victory at Old Trafford earlier in the season and believes it is a matter of time before his summer signings come good.
“It counts for all the players that we have bought; the first season is always difficult,” he added.
“For me it is not a big surprise; it would have been a bigger surprise if Angel di Maria had adapted very quickly.
“In the Netherlands, Spain and Germany I had the same experience with players. We shall wait and see.”
£60m record signing Di Maria is likely to maintain his place in the starting XI, despite being substituted at half-time last weekend, at a ground where United have lost just once in 11 visits.
However, Saturday’s victory over Aston Villa all but secured Newcastle’s Premier League survival and John Carver’s side will be hoping to repeat 2012’s 3-0 triumph.
If they are to do so, the first half will be crucial – United have led only two of their last games at half-time, while Newcastle have scored a league high 69% of their goals in the second half.
Meanwhile, with Robin van Persie injured, United will look to Rooney who has scored a career high 12 Premier League goals against the Magpies.
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