Louis van Gaal does not expect any Manchester United player to agitate for an exit if the club fail to reach the Champions League, and suggested that goalkeeper David De Gea was always going to stay at United despite a near-deal with Real Madrid last summer.
The current crop are looking to avoid the ignominy of missing out on a place at European football’s top table, just as David Moyes’ side did following a miserable 2013-14 campaign.
United head into Saturday’s clash with rudderless Aston Villa four points shy of fourth-placed Manchester City, but even usurping their neighbours may not be enough to secure Champions League football.
A maximum of five teams from one league can qualify for the competition, meaning if City and Liverpool both finish outside the top four but seal European glory then fourth spot would become a Europa League berth.
That would be a gut punch but Van Gaal is confident United would recover, especially as the manager does not expect any player to want to leave if they miss out on the Champions League.
“There is not any player who wants to go away, I think,” the Dutchman said.
“And when another club wants to pay the figures that the board of Manchester United demand, then it is possible.
“But that is dependent on the board, of the decision of the board if a player can go.”
Asked again whether players would want to leave for Champions League football, Van Gaal added: “I don’t think so, I don’t think so.
“But, of course, you have to ask the players, but the players are the participants of every week’s match.”
Certainly few could afford to acquire United’s top talent, but missing out on the Champions League would likely kick-start Real Madrid’s interest in De Gea.
Madrid were willing to part with £29 million and Keylor Navas to sign the goalkeeper last summer, but the relevant paperwork was not completed before the 11 p.m deadline.
De Gea subsequently signed a new four-year deal at United — a development that appears to have made Van Gaal forget the fact his star player was ready to quit the club.
“You have said that he is going to Real Madrid,” he said. “I have said always that he stays. You remember that?
“And now you are asking how long he has to stay? Come on. First you have to say: ‘Okay, sorry that I have written that. Sorry.’
“Ask him, ask him. Maybe he said something about that. But not to me.”
Put to Van Gaal that the goalkeeper nearly joined Real Madrid, he retorted: “Oh yeah? You think so. Okay.