Belfast Telegraph

Van Gaal pleased with Fergie praise

Louis van Gaal appreciates Sir Alex Ferguson's praise, but admits he will always be under pressure to match the Scot's achievements at Manchester United.

Van Gaal has been charged with the task of rebuilding United following the failed reign of David Moyes, who Ferguson chose to succeed him after 26 successful years at the helm.

Ferguson won 38 trophies during his tenure at the club, so anything short of a golden run will be viewed as a success by the Dutchman, who has won leagues in Spain, Holland and Germany.

United's greatest ever manager lavished praise on Van Gaal this week, telling BT Sport: ''He's a great coach, he will do well... When he gets the best players back, you watch United go."

While Van Gaal appreciates the endorsement of a man held in the highest regard by United fans, he concedes such words put him under pressure to deliver.

"It's fantastic," Van Gaal said when asked about Ferguson's praise.

"When you come here, you hope - because I know Sir Alex - that he shall support you.

"And this week is not the first time he has showed a lot of confidence and belief in me, and that I need as trainer-coach.

"As manager of Manchester United you need belief and support of managers such as Sir Alex but also (directors) Bobby Charlton and David Gill.

"They have the belief and I'm happy with that, then you can work in an easier way.

"But it is also a pressure because he believes in you and it gives you that pressure that you have to get results. It is not so easy to win Premier League matches."

Van Gaal has started to live up to his star-billing in recent weeks, taking United on a run of six wins from seven matches.

The Dutchman was in a good mood as he addressed the media for the final time before Christmas on Tuesday.

The 63-year-old shared a bottle of wine - red, naturally - with the reporters at Carrington, and spoke positively about the run of form which has lifted the Red Devils into third.

United's home form has been key to their revival. If they beat Newcastle on Boxing Day they will have won eight matches at Old Trafford - one less than they achieved for the whole of last season.

"I said when we came back from the (pre-season tour of) the United States we wanted to build a fortress at Old Trafford so it was a pity we lost against Swansea," said Van Gaal, reflecting on United's only home defeat on the opening day of the season.

"We want to build a fortress at Old Trafford, but we have made it that already because we have won a lot, and also with great results like 3-0 (against Hull) and 4-0 (versus QPR).

"I'm happy with that, but then we have to continue."

The omens look good for United. The Red Devils have won 19 of their 22 matches on Boxing Day since the Premier League began.

"Yes, I have read that," Van Gaal said with a smile.

The Dutchman's face straightened when he was asked about speculation United were set to launch a world-record bid to sign Real Madrid star Gareth Bale next summer.

"I cannot discus that with you," Van Gaal said.

"I discuss that with my CEO (chief executive Ed Woodward) and not with anyone of the media."

Van Gaal remains without injured trio Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind while Marouane Fellaini is unavailable due to illness.

Chris Smalling has an outside chance of playing against Newcastle, but Marcos Rojo is unlikely to feature due to a thigh problem.

Wayne Rooney looks set to continue in the central midfield role he has occupied recently.

"Against Aston Villa he (Rooney) was more of a defensive midfielder. He has the ability to run from box to box - that is also a little bit that he has to feel in the match, to read in the match that he can do that," Van Gaal said.

"That is a matter of time and I believe that he can do that."

Van Gaal later confirmed the United players, in a break with tradition, will be given Christmas Day off.

The squad will report to Carrington on Boxing Day, rather than convene in a hotel the night before the match

"I have changed that, I have given them free time and Christmas day with the family," Van Gaal told MUTV.

"We shall come together the next day here at our Aon Training Complex. Then we will have all of the meetings like we have done all season."

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