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Louis van Gaal expects Manchester United to be in a ‘battle’ for the Champions League spots, and says the fight for qualification could go down to the final weekend of the season.

United’s 3-1 defeat of Leicester on Saturday has van Gaal’s men in third place, five points behind Manchester City and one point above Ronald Koeman’s Southampton following the Saints’ surprise home defeat against Swansea yesterday.

“I have already said in press conferences [that the race for a Champions League spot could go to the final weekend] because that is a big battle,” Van Gaal told MUTV.

Arsenal are now also in the hunt, having drawn level on points with Southampton after thrashing Aston Villa 5-0 at the Emirates. But van Gaal’s gaze remains fixed on the team above him.

“We are [five] points off Manchester City, for example,” he said. “So I believe it shall be a big battle in the end.”

The Dutchman has a busy week ahead. United will face Cambridge United at Old Trafford tomorrow night in their FA Cup fourth-round replay, then travel to east London to face West Ham on Sunday.