Louis van Gaal would see this season as a success if they fell short in the race for Champions League qualification but won the FA Cup.
Life after Sir Alex Ferguson has so far proved difficult at Old Trafford, but David Moyes’ successor began brightly enough as United finished fourth in his first season at the helm.
Van Gaal’s second campaign has been less comfortable, though, and missing out on the Champions League looks a distinct possibility, despite having recently reduced the gap to the top four to two points.
Those recent improvements have done little to dim the noise about the Dutchman’s future, yet winning — and perhaps bowing out with — silverware remains a reasonable prospect.
United face Everton at Wembley on Saturday looking to book a place in the FA Cup final, with Van Gaal targeting the club’s first title win in the competition since 2004 — and first major trophy of the post-Ferguson era.
“I think it is always a success when you win a title,” Van Gaal said when asked if this would be a successful season if they finished fifth but won the cup. “But for the club it is more important to qualify for the Champions League because we have to show ourselves at the highest level. That is also our aim.”
FA Cup success would allow Van Gaal to continue a run of winning a trophy at every club he has managed, from the Champions League with Ajax to a pair of Primera Division crowns at Barcelona, plus league titles at AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich.
Continuing a medal-laden career would mean a lot to the Dutchman and believes could be the catalyst to more success at Old Trafford.
“Always when you win a title it represents what Manchester United stands for,” Van Gaal said. “We have had a period of a lot of titles and we want to bring it back.
“And when you win the FA Cup, you have a title and a very respectable title and in England more than in other countries. In the Netherlands and also in Spain, the cup is not so highly valued.
“In Germany, they have a fixed stadium in Berlin and they make a big event of it so I like the way the Germans do it and I expect that here it is much bigger.
Van Gaal said he can tell from the fans he sees in the streets around Manchester that FA Cup success is a big deal for supporters, but urged caution as the team face a stiff test from a desperate Everton team in the semifinals.
“We have to beat Everton and in spite of the 4-0 loss [that Everton suffered against Liverpool], we have showed already this season that we have lost against Arsenal and the next match we won.
“That’s the same after Liverpool — that we lost 2-0 there and then we played West Ham in the quarterfinals and made a 1-1 and that was very important.
“So Everton can do that also after Liverpool, and when you are winning, you can also lose. In spite of them having a lot of injuries I have read, still they have the chance to beat us.”