Louis van Gaal insists Manchester United still have “a lot of chances” for success this season as they prepare to face FC Midtjylland in a make-or-break Europa League tie.
United extended their FA Cup run with a comfortable 3-0 win over Shrewsbury on Monday to secure a tie against West Ham United in the quarter-finals.
And Van Gaal has now begun preparing his side for Thursday’s crucial home game with Midtjylland as they try to overturn an embarrassing 2-1 deficit from the away leg in Denmark.
The United manager’s future remains uncertain despite the routine win against League One Shrewsbury, and Van Gaal admits Thursday’s fixture at Old Trafford is a significant occasion.
“It is in my opinion a big game because it’s a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season (by winning the Europa League),” he said.
“But we have to win a lot of matches of course.
“It’s easily spoken about but doing it is different. But it is possible and then we’ll see.
“Still everything is possible, we’re still in three competitions, so we have to fight for a lot of chances I think.”
Van Gaal could have first-choice goalkeeper David De Gea fit to face Midtjylland after he suffered a knee injury in the warm-up for the first leg.
And the Dutchman expects more injured players to return to action in the next few weeks.
He has captain Wayne Rooney sidelined for around six weeks with a knee problem while Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Bastian Schweinsteiger are also missing.
“I think in March a lot of players are coming back and then we’ll have a full selection, and with our full selection we were first in the Premier League,” he said.
Van Gaal was pleased with his team’s display at Shrewsbury after the dismal defeats against Sunderland and Midtjylland.
“Everybody shall say it is against Shrewsbury Town and Manchester United has to win but we have seen very difficult results in the FA Cup,” he added.
“The top team is not always winning. I think the performance was very good, I said that already at half-time to my players.
“They were very committed, they performed our game-plan very well and the consequence was we were ahead 2-0 at half-time.
“So I think we have done it fantastically, I have congratulated my players, I was very pleased but now we have to beat Midtjylland because it is also possible to beat them.
“But it is not easy because Midtjylland are very well organised, we have seen that in the away game.”
Shrewsbury offered little resistance to a United side who dominated throughout a one-sided contest and boss Micky Mellon said: “You’ve got to congratulate Manchester United on a superb display.
“You see players of that quality getting free kicks around the area you always know you’re going to be in trouble.
“What we’re disappointed about is that we never gave the fans a goal to cheer.
“We’ll be disappointed when we have seen the opportunities back that we haven’t scored.
“I’m determined I’m not going to be any way critical of the players because we came up against some fantastic quality.
“The players can walk away with their heads held high because they gave us everything they had.”