Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United's young guns need time, warns Van Gaal

Dutchman urges supporters to exercise patience as the cream of Europe awaits

By Tim Rich

The Champions League without Manchester United is like Christmas without Morecambe and Wise and to Louis van Gaal their return to the European elite would have been as familiar as a chorus of "Bring Me Sunshine" to a family on the sofa.

When he won his first Eredivisie title with Ajax 21 years ago, PSV Eindhoven were the moneyed, dominant club Van Gaal swept aside.

They were the club that in 2007 stole the championship from him on the final day of the season when all his AZ Alkmaar side had to do was win at home against Excelsior Rotterdam. Last night, he joked that when he was in charge of the Netherlands, PSV fans would ask him for photos and autographs.

Just before he accepted that job, he had been offered the position at the Philips Stadion but as PSV's director of football, Marcel Brands, reflected: "Not everyone in the club agreed with it."

Chief among them was Eindhoven's newly-appointed captain, Mark van Bommel, who had fallen out badly with Van Gaal at Bayern Munich.

"For me, it has been a difficult place," the Manchester United manager said on his return to Eindhoven.

"I did not win so many times here, not when I was manager of Barcelona and not when I was with Ajax."

Provided United avoid defeat here, something they failed to do on their last visit to Eindhoven in 2000, Van Gaal would take not winning tonight - especially since Wayne Rooney was not fit enough to travel.

"An away draw is always good in the Champions League," he said. That would be especially true of United, who under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes won one of their last seven away games in the competition.

However much the pursuit of the European Cup resonates at Old Trafford, the fact remains that since reaching the final in 2011, United have been knocked out by the first decent team they have encountered.

Fortunately for Van Gaal, who was brought in to take United to the Champions League and keep them there, Group B appears pretty bare of decent teams.

There was, however, considerable interest in the two men behind the microphones in the Philips Stadion's press room.

What, Van Gaal was asked, did he make of the collapse of the Dutch national side since he stepped down as the national coach and how did Memphis Depay feel about returning to the club he had helped to win the championship last season?

Depay was more forthcoming than his manager, for whom the startling decline of the Oranje after he led them to third place in the World Cup is something of a difficult subject, not least because Danny Blind, the man in charge now after Guus Hiddink's departure, is regarded as one of his closest allies in football.

"Every word I say is one too many," Van Gaal claimed.

Depay's return comes at an awkward time. Of all those celebrating in the home dressing room after United's 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday evening, the striker would have been the most muted.

He had been substituted during the interval at Old Trafford and Van Gaal had not been especially supportive in his post-match comments.

For PSV's coach, Phillip Cocu, for whom Depay had scored 28 times in their title-winning season, this was not a surprise.

"He will have some ups and downs," said Cocu, who played for Van Gaal at Barcelona. "He is a player who puts a lot of risk into his game. Some matches will end well for him but it will be difficult in the beginning.

"I am sure when he has been playing for a few months that it will get better for him. He has a good vision and he has an eye for his fellow players but you need some time to grow."

Van Gaal agreed, saying Depay still had to adapt to the rhythm and intensity of the Premier League, which was very different to an Eredivisie that is increasingly dominated by young players, chiefly because as soon as anyone in the Netherlands becomes any good they are offered substantial sums to leave.

"The Eredivisie is getting younger and younger and that is why the fans in Holland have to be patient," said Van Gaal. "And that is why I have to be patient with Memphis, Anthony Martial or Adnan Januzaj. You can't demand consistency of 19 or 20-year-olds.

"The Eredivisie is nice to watch but the pressure on the ball is less and that is why Memphis is feeling the pressure. It is the same for Martial - you have to give them time."

Belfast Telegraph


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