Ander Herrera is confident Manchester United will avoid the ignominy of missing out on Champions League qualification.
Life after Sir Alex Ferguson began with a bump as two years ago the Red Devils failed to qualify for European football’s top competition for the first time since 1995.
That failure cost David Moyes his job and things this season have looked to be going the same for successor Louis van Gaal, only for back-to-back victories to put them within a point of fourth-placed Manchester City.
United’s 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium before the international break kick-started a mini revival that continued against Everton on Sunday – “very important” wins that make Herrera confident of pipping rivals City to the final Champions League spot.
“Man United should be every year in the Champions League,” the Spanish midfielder said.
“I think the last 25 or 26 years, just one time we didn’t play Champions League, so we want to be there.
“We are Man United, we as players are obligated to fight until the end and I think we have the quality to be there.
“Man City has a bigger squad, very good players, but I think right now we can fight against them.
“We have recovered some important players for us. They are going to help us and there is a lot of experience, like Antonio (Valencia) and Ash (Young). I am optimistic.
“I think the last game we showed that we are a little bit better than them right now, in this moment.
“We beat them away in the Manchester derby so we can be optimistic.”
Herrera on Tottenham clash
That confidence also goes for United’s next fixture, despite it being a difficult-looking match at Tottenham.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are pushing Leicester for the title, but Sunday’s trip to White Hart Lane holds little trepidation.
“When we play against top teams, I am not so worried about our performance because I think we usually do quite well against top teams,” Herrera said.
“The most difficult games for us or when I am a little bit more worried is when we’re not playing against top teams.
“We have now one week to train, one week to prepare for the game. It is not so usual.
“This season we have played almost every three days, so we have to prepare very good for that game because we watched the game against Liverpool.
“I think they deserved to win, they controlled the second half almost fully, so it is not going to be easy, but when we play against top teams I think we perform better.”
Another trip to London follows just days later as United face West Ham in an FA Cup quarter-final replay.
Herrera on Rooney return
The potential for a top-four finish and silverware means Herrera has “a lot to fight for”, with those hopes set to be boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney.
Out since February 13 with a knee injury, the England and United captain is closing in on a return to fitness and a first-team return.
“He’s the top scorer for us this season, he usually is the top scorer of this club,” Herrera said.
“We are going to count with him hopefully next game, so it is better for everyone.
“I always say that when you have competition in the team it is better for everyone in the team.
“It is going to be better for Anthony (Martial), it is going to be better for Marcus (Rashford), it is going to be better for Jesse (Lingard) – players who can play there.
“When you see that you can lose your position, it is better. Even for me.
“I think I give my best when I feel that my position is not secure, so I think it is better for everyone.”