Manchester United already better than last season - Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal says this year's Manchester United team have already improved on last season's results.
Wins over Arsenal and Watford last week have brought United to the brink of the Premier League top four, a feat that seemed impossible only a few weeks ago, especially considering an injury list that has included up to 14 players at one point.
When Van Gaal's men take the pitch at West Brom on Sunday, they will match last season's total with their 44th game of the year.
United remain active in the Europa League and FA Cup, and the Dutchman says his players deserves some credit for their resiliency.
"I think this team is better than last year's, but we don't get the benefit of that because we have had so many injuries," Van Gaal said. "When we had only three or four players injured earlier in the season, we were first in the Premier League. But nobody remembers that.
"Last year, we also had a lot of injuries, but then you could say that our training schedule was maybe too heavy. But this year, we have only had contact injuries. There are no muscle problems, only contact injuries, so it is not our fault any more.
"This year, we have a smaller group than last year, but we have an injury list of 14 or 15 players. Every week we have a big problem. So to reach our aim to be in the Champions League, it would be fantastic, and it would mean my staff will have done fantastically well. But, of course, so have the players, because they have to adapt every week to playing alongside new teammates."
But with a top-four finish back within reach, Van Gaal said he was still not ready to sacrifice United's Europa League campaign or the FA Cup, where United have reached the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
"Finishing in the top four is still our aim, but we are also aiming to win a trophy," he said. "Manchester United have never won the Europa League, so it would be fantastic for our fans if we could do that.
"Winning a trophy always means more than finishing fourth in the Premier League, but qualifying for the Champions League is our aim."
Much of United's resurgence has been thanks to young players like Marcus Rashford performing like veterans, but Van Gaal said it was too early to compare the current new boys to the Class of '92.
"I cannot predict that. [Paul] Scholes, [Ryan] Giggs, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt have already proved themselves. They were champions and so on," Van Gaal said. "These guys are on the threshold of a new career and I am not a god, so I cannot predict.
"But some of our players do have a lot of qualities. They have to be open to their manager, the staff and to the older players who can guide them.
"It always starts with the player himself. It is not the manager -- and I've said that today to a player again. It's not me. I shall always give young players a chance -- and then they have to grab it. That's why I say it all starts with the player.
"The player has to be open for a lot of things, not only the tactical situation or the technical situation, but also how he stands in life."