BIRMINGHAM - Louis van Gaal fears Manchester United's failure to beat Aston Villa will prove a major blow to their hopes of winning the Premier League title.
His team's slim chance of reviving their bid to become English champions suffered a setback on Saturday, as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against 10-man Aston Villa.
Radamel Falcao's first goal since Oct 5 cancelled out Christian Benteke's fine opener for Villa, yet the contest was later overshadowed by referee Lee Mason's controversial dismissal of Gabriel Agbonlahor for a seemingly innocuous challenge on former Villa teammate Ashley Young.
It ended United's run of six successive victories as they lost ground to rivals Manchester City, who had earlier moved level on points with leaders Chelsea ahead of the Blues' trip to Stoke today.
It leaves the gap between those two and United, who sit third, at seven points.
Asked if this was the sort of result that could cost his team the title, the United manager replied: "Yes, that's what I mean. We dropped two points.
"We were the better team and that is frustrating when you are the better team and you don't win these kind of games.
"When you want to be a part of the title race, you have to win these games.
"I have seen City's first half against Crystal Palace, and they could have been behind in the first five or 10 minutes.
"They struggled until half-time, but at the end, it is 3-0. That is the difference.
"We weren't so aggressive in the first half as we are usually. We kept the ball much better, but didn't create so much because we were not looking for the forwards.
"We have a draw and that's why I am a little frustrated, because we could have won the game."
United adopted van Gaal's favoured back three in the first half - before he changed after the interval - yet tactically, Villa had the better shape and were always a threat with the counterattacking game which has become their trademark under boss Paul Lambert.
Although Falcao scored what van Gaal termed "a beautiful goal", emphatically burying Young's left-wing delivery with a bullet header, the United boss was still less than 100 per cent satisfied.
"I liked Falcao today," van Gaal said.
"I am very happy for him and I am always happy when United score.
"Should he start more? I have to compare every week, there's always a question for every player, not only for Falcao."