United were drawn against fierce rivals Liverpool in the round of 16—the first-ever continental meeting between the pair.
It wasn’t a good occasion for United, who lost 2-0 at Anfield in the first leg, before only managing a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the return fixture.
As Liverpool move on to face Borussia Dortmund, the Red Devils put the aggregate defeat behind them to beat a lacklustre Manchester City side 1-0 in the derby on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford scored the only goal of the game as van Gaal’s side gave their chances of qualifying for the Champions League a major boost.
Speaking after the match, a clearly delighted LVG praised his team for closing the gap on City to one point, before suggesting that the loss to Liverpool—and Europa League elimination—will prove to be a good thing for his side.
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“I am a very proud manager today,” van Gaal told Sky Sports after the match. “This victory was necessary the gap was four points and now is one point, plus we are equal with West Ham which is important, what is possible? I cannot say.
“We do not have Thursday matches now and that is a positive thing.”