Belfast Telegraph

Louis van Gaal: Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao not fit enough to start

By Martyn Ziegler

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he is "not interested" in whether striker Radamel Falcao is happy to settle for a substitute's role and insisted the Colombian is not fit enough to last a full match.

Van Gaal said Falcao's lack of match fitness means he can only play for 20 minutes or so in the fast pace of the Premier League, and that the demands of the squad mean he has to continue in that role as cover for other strikers rather than work on his fitness.

Falcao is likely to be on the bench again at Southampton tonight and asked if the striker was happy with that role, Van Gaal replied: "I am not interested in that. He has to follow my philosophy - do you understand that? I am here because of that.

"It's match fitness [he needs]. It would be a better contribution if he played with the second team but I cannot do that because on Tuesday we had the match against Stoke and Wayne Rooney was injured. I had to adapt to the needs of the selection (squad)."

Van Gaal was hugely relieved after a scan last week on a potential knee injury for Rooney showed there was no problem - the striker has become the key player for the Dutch manager after he chose him as his captain following the club's pre-season tour to the USA.

"Very good!" beamed Van Gaal, when asked about Rooney. "He will play."

He added: "We were in the USA when I decided to make him captain and not for one day have I regretted that. For me the most important thing is that he is captain of our team."

Van Gaal said he was impressed at the team spirit that has developed, highlighted by the Christmas party organised last week by Rooney.

"It was fantastic," van Gaal said. "Usually, I don't use words like this, but I think it showed the cohesion in our group from both the players and staff. My wife and I enjoyed it very much.

"The squad is very important, and that's why the timing of our Christmas party was fantastic - it showed the togetherness in the squad. I think we are in a good position."

Meanwhile, Saints manager Ronald Koeman is unmoved by the speculation surrounding Nathaniel Clyne ahead of tonight's match against apparent suitors Untied.

This has been a wonderful season to date for the 23-year-old full-back, having played a key role in Saints' astonishing start to the campaign and impressed in his first England run-outs.

Such displays have somewhat inevitably led to speculation Clyne could soon be leaving for pastures new, with United heavily linked in recent days.

The right-back's deal at St Mary's runs until 2016 and talks are ongoing to extend that, leaving Koeman relaxed about the situation.

"If I have to be worried about those kind of rumours, then I will be worried every day and I don't like that," the Dutchman said with a smile.

Belfast Telegraph


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