Belfast Telegraph

Van Gaal insists he's still right man

By Tim Rich

Louis van Gaal yesterday mounted a spiky defence of his tenure as Manchester United manager, insisting he had not lost his managerial touch and that at the age of 64 he was still capable of turning the team's season around.

When asked if he felt any uncertainty about his job, the Dutchman responded: "No doubts. You can lose and win in sport, you have to accept it.

"The problem is that we have to meet with the expectation. At a club like Manchester United they are very high."

In the wake of the club's embarrassing exit from the Champions League many have questioned how relevant his brand of sometimes stultifying possession football is in the age of the counter-attack.

Van Gaal remained on the offensive. "When you say I was hired to make a difference, you are right," he said.

"I can make a difference in tactics and everything but I cannot score goals. I have already read in the media that at 64 I am too old but last year I was good enough to take Holland to third in the World Cup."

He also insisted that, despite the poor football, if United were to win the Premier League it would silence the critics, just as it did when he was at Barcelona in 1997.

"When we went out at the group stage with Barcelona, they wrote the same thing - that my touch has gone," he said. While many critics have mocked the fact that United will now have to play in the much derided Europa League, Van Gaal insisted it was a big tournament that he would now try to win.

Asked if he would be happy if he just lifted the Europa League this season, he replied: "Just? You think it's 'just'? I'm not thinking like that. I have already won the Europa League with Ajax in my first season, and I was very proud of that. For me, it is a big competition."

The Dutchman's defence of himself included arguing that United, who have reached one Champions League quarter-final in five years - and that under David Moyes - faced increasing competition at home and abroad.

"It is far harder to win the Champions League now than it was then," he said.

"At that time Barcelona had a great deal of money, Real Madrid had great money, but who else? Manchester United? At that time, maybe, and perhaps Bayern Munich also. Now we have many more clubs with money that can win something.

"It is the same in the Premier League. Next year all the clubs in the Premier League will have a bigger budget than most clubs in Europe.

"That makes a big difference. Every club can buy a major player. The difference between Manchester United and the other clubs is not so big any more. You see the confirmation of that every week."

The problem with this argument is that United still possess an enormous financial advantage and Van Gaal was hired to make the difference.

He identified the two games against PSV Eindhoven as the ones that decided his team's fate in the Champions League - a 2-1 defeat in the Netherlands and a goalless stalemate at Old Trafford.

PSV had revenues of £45m last year. United made nearly three times that in the first quarter of this year; their financial resources were double those of the three other clubs in their Champions League group combined. Sky Sports valued their squad at more than £400m - 14 times that of Bournemouth, who they play today.

Belfast Telegraph


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