Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Liverpool boss Rodgers sounds title warning to van Gaal: 'Manchester United manager will struggle to win title'

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Tough ask: Brendan Rodgers is expecting a difficult title battle

Brendan Rodgers has questioned Louis van Gaal's ability to cope with the demands of the Premier League and believes the new Manchester United manager will struggle to win the title in his first season in English football.

Van Gaal was left celebrating at the end of his first meeting with United's bitter rivals after Wayne Rooney, who was captain for the evening, helped his side recover from a goal down to beat Liverpool 3-1 and win the Guinness International Champions Cup in Miami on Monday night. Steven Gerrard's penalty put Liverpool ahead, but Rooney and Juan Mata scored within two minutes of each other before Jesse Lingard rounded things off.

Yet Liverpool boss Rodgers, despite acknowledging his respect for the Dutchman's stellar CV which includes managing the likes of Bayern Munich, Ajax and Barcelona, believes he will find it extremely difficult to cope with the fierce, unpredictable nature of English football.

"I think what he'll find is the competition in this league will be different to any other league that he's worked in," said Rodgers.

"In a lot of the other leagues, there are one or two teams and those are the teams that are expected to win. This is a league where the top team plays the bottom team and on any given day you can lose. You don't get that a lot in the other leagues. I think the competition will probably take him by surprise and that's from foreign managers I have spoken to over the years."

Carnlough man Rodgers added: “I’ve worked closely with foreign players who have come in, and that real physical competitive nature will be different to anywhere else he’s worked before.”

Van Gaal will be keen to tell his Liverpool counterpart how he won trophies in Spain and Germany during his first seasons but Rodgers knows with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all working hard to improve this summer, the competition at the top will be as fierce as ever.

“I think it’s going to be really competitive. Last season was great and right the way through there were four or five teams right up there, and then in the closing months it narrowed down a wee bit,” Rodgers said.

“The Premier League historically shows that it’s a very competitive league. Man United will want to bounce back, Chelsea will be strong, Manchester City are the champions so they’ll be the favourites.”

Rooney, who has looked in fine form for United in their four-match US tour scoring five times, seemed to thrive on the responsibility given to him by Van Gaal, who hinted the England forward could be the man to lead his side out in their Premier League opener against Swansea City a week on Saturday.

Robin van Persie had been tipped to be named captain by his fellow countryman yet Van Gaal looks likely to prefer Rooney.

“I am always looking for opportunities to give players the captain’s armband. Rooney played 90 minutes for the first time against Liverpool,” Van Gaal said.

“Darren Fletcher had already done it two times, then he was the captain and Tom Cleverley because he also had 90 minutes. I think you have to choose when it is possible for the English style. That is when it is possible.”

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich have agreed a deal to sign Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina, the Bundesliga champions have announced.

The Spaniard has fallen out of favour at Anfield under Rodgers and spent last season on loan at Napoli, but is now set to move to Germany on a permanent deal, with Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirming a deal had been agreed.

The fee for the 31-year-old Spanish international is believed to be just £2million, with Rodgers keen to offload the keeper.

Rummenigge revealed: “The player will come to Munich in the next few days for a medical exam and to sign his contract.”

Reina served as Liverpool's number one for eight seasons following his signing from Villarreal in 2005, but the arrival of Simon Mignolet last summer saw him reunited with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez in Italy.

Rodgers hopes Philippe Coutinho will sign a new contract with Liverpool in the near future.

Coutinho has made a big impact at Liverpool since he moved to Anfield from Inter Milan in an £8.5million transfer 18 months ago.

Rodgers views the 22-year-old Brazilian as an important part of his side's future and he is hoping the playmaker will sign the new deal he has been offered shortly.

“I am not sure when it will be done. I haven't spoken to any of the directors in the last few days so I am not sure where we are on that, but obviously he is someone we want to tie up for a period of time,” the Liverpool manager said after his team's defeat to Manchester United in Miami.

“I am sure I will hear more about it when I get back on Tuesday.”

Coutinho scored five goals in 37 appearances for the Merseyside club last season.

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