LAST-GASP hero Robin van Persie thinks Manchester United are capable of catching Chelsea following Sundays draw with the Premier League leaders.
United looked set to lose to Didier Drogba’s header - deflected in off Van Persie - until the Dutch striker fired home following Marouane Fellaini’s saved header in injury time at Old Trafford.
While his manager Louis van Gaal was left frustrated again, his counterpart Jose Mourinho praised his side’s performance.
Van Persie, when asked if United can close the gap on Chelsea, who remain top of the table, told Sky Sports: “Of course we can, there’s a long way to go, nine, 10 games played and it’s not even halfway. “In my opinion, we are better every day. In training and if you look at games, you can see we are comfy on the ball and we are playing better.
“Now we have to stretch games longer. We extended that into the hour and we try to aim to play like that for an hour and a half.”Van Gaal, meanwhile, was unhappy that his side failed to make the most of their early dominance and felt they needed to be more clinical in front of goal, but he also credited his players for showing the fight to keep going until the final minute as they grabbed a share of the spoils.
“Again, it is the same old song,” Van Gaal told Sky Sports 1. “We created a lot but we didn’t finish our chances and Chelsea scored the first goal.
“This made it much more difficult because Chelsea play good ball possession and made the pitch bigger so we had to run and run, but 10 minutes after the goal, we kept together and deserved the (equalising) goal.
“I think we could have won this game also against Chelsea. I’m saying this after nearly every game now but that’s a good sign I think because Chelsea are a good side and I think that we were at least equal.“We are showing that we are believing in a goal until the end, despite the result being bad.
“Also against West Brom, despite creating many chances, we fell 2-1 behind to them and one goal behind today, then it’s fantastic that players are running until the end to equalise.”Mourinho criticised the late booking from referee Phil Dowd on Branislav Ivanovic, which reduced Chelsea to 10 men, as well as failing to hand Chelsea a penalty in the first half for a clumsy challenge by Chris Smalling.
“The red card, I was seeing it coming. If I have to speak about the second yellow I have to speak about lots of things.
“The penalty that Ivanovic should have been given [after wrestling with Smalling], the accumulation of yellow cards, the throw-ins. I know I speak always with my heart and get in trouble.”Despite conceding the late goal, Mourinho was very satisfied with his team’s performance, considering the squad was without injured strikers Diego Costa and Loic Remy.
The Portuguese coach added: “My team played a fantastic game, it’s not easy to play here against Manchester United, a Manchester United that tried to play very compact and hit us on the counter attack.“We were fantastic, especially in the second half. It was a top-class performance, good control, we could score a couple more goals.
“The result is not the one we wanted, we came to win but the performance is fantastic. The result, not so, but acceptable.”
Fellaini’s header came when he was not marked by Branislav Ivanovic - the Chelsea defender who was sent off seconds before - and therefore United and Van Persie capitalised.
“Is that so? It makes it even better for us,” Van Persie said.
“If you come back in a game like this, the fact is we were 1-0 down and it gives us a boost.
“If you look at the table we should have won, wanted to win to get the points, but we can be happy with a draw.” Van Persie also admitted his late equaliser, which sparked jubilant celebrations at Old Trafford, felt like a winner.
He said: “In the 93rd minute, 1-0 down at home, it feels so much better as you can see. Overall we had more chances than them, although it’s a fair result. I have mixed feelings.
“I had two early chances when (Thibaut Courtois) made a good save with a blocked shot, and in the second half as well late in the game. I always kept thinking positive, going for the next chance and it fell to my feet.”