- Premier League
Van Gaal brings back belief as United target title
Darren Fletcher says Manchester United cannot settle simply for Champions League qualification and must set out to win the Premier League this season.
New manager Louis van Gaal has instilled new belief in a squad that suffered from a lack of confidence last term and Fletcher is sure they can recover from finishing seventh to take the title.
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"We go out to win the league," Fletcher said. "It is a dangerous mindset to have, to target fourth place. We are not players or a club that thinks like that and we will be going out to win the league."
The midfielder cited Liverpool - who United face in the final of the International Champions Cup friendly tournament in Miami on Monday - as inspiration for what can be achieved in a single season. After finishing seventh in 2013, Liverpool chased the title last season into the final weeks before finishing second.
Brendan Rodgers' side, like United this season, had the advantage of only having to concentrate on English competition after missing out on Europe.
"Liverpool showed that last year and we believe we can win the league again," Fletcher said after an encouraging pre-season period in which United have beaten LA Galaxy, Roma and Inter Milan. "Liverpool didn't have European football last year and they went close to winning the league, so hopefully we can go one better next year.
"They [games] have been fantastic. The results are important, but so are the performances and they have got better with every game. Hopefully that can continue, but the main thing is winning games and getting that mentality back.
"We can feel it coming back. Before the first game, we spoke about doing that - winning and getting the feel-good factor of winning because it breeds confidence."
United's fringe players will be given a last chance to convince Van Gaal they deserve to stay at the club against Liverpool and Fletcher believes victory, even in a friendly, would help make amends' for last season's 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
"Hopefully, yes. We have just beaten Real Madrid, the European champions, and we now want to go on and beat Liverpool," he said. "That is the sort of thing that gives the squad confidence. We have a lot of young players out here and you have to remember that. But all of us have to do it as a team, collectively, and we are doing that."
Personally, Fletcher is working his way back from an illness that has plagued him for three years. He said he feels he is finally returning to his top form this summer.
"It's just because I have played the 90 minutes in those games. I've had three 90 minutes and been captain three times," said the 30-year-old. "I was so excited to start pre-season and get back in the gym.
"I have worked hard in the off season. I haven't had a pre-season for about three years now, but it is very important for any player and it has been great for me to be so involved. I am not playing catch-up now or behind anybody in terms of fitness and that gives you a big advantage."