Belfast Telegraph

Van Gaal: Ideals beat facilities

Manchester City are not guaranteed to get the pick of the best young players in the north west despite spending £200million on a new training complex, Louis van Gaal has warned.

City unveiled their state-of-the-art training complex on Monday.

The base, which is connected to the Etihad Stadium by bridge, includes a 7,000-seater stadium, 16 pitches and hotel-standard accommodation for players as well as cutting-edge technology which will aid opposition analysis and rehabilitation from injury.

City's first-team squad will be based there, as well as the club's youth sides.

Patrick Vieira, who runs City's elite development squad, said at the launch that youngsters in Manchester would have an "easy choice" when deciding where their future lies.

United have prided themselves on developing some of the best talent in history, but Van Gaal is not too concerned about what is happening over in east Manchester.

"The building is not so important, the accommodation is not so important, it's the philosophy and the staff that's important," the United manager said at the club's own training ground on Friday.

"Then comes of course the talent."

United have their own multi-million pound facility at Carrington which is the envy of many clubs across Europe.

"When I see what I have then I am very happy," Van Gaal said.

One of United's most famous youth products, Paul Scholes, wrote in the Independent on Friday that he feared United would lose out to City in the battle for the best prospects in the region.

Van Gaal was not impressed with Scholes' words, particularly when they came just four days after Gary Neville had compared his former club to a pub team.

"Paul Scholes. Also a legend. He has to pay attention to his words also," said Van Gaal, who responded with the same barb when he was informed of Neville's criticisms following the highly fortuitous 2-1 win over Southampton on Monday.

Neville predicted United's game against Liverpool on Sunday - traditionally one of the biggest games in the calendar - would resemble something like "the Dog & Duck against the Red Lion" because of the poor form of both teams.

Van Gaal got a little taste of the rivalry between United and Liverpool in pre-season when the two teams met in Miami for the final of the International Champions Cup.

United came out on top that night with a 3-1 victory at the Sun Life Stadium.

United's record signing Angel di Maria will miss Sunday's game as he is still out with a hamstring problem, but Rafael and Phil Jones are back following their respective groin and shin injuries.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes a trip to Old Trafford to face a United side on a roll is perfect for his players despite their shaky confidence.

Failure to get out of the Champions League group stages following a 1-1 draw against Basle in midweek was a considerable blow to a squad which had looked to have turned a corner, however small, in recent weeks.

Contrast that with United, who are far from at their fluent best but have won five games in a row to lift them into third place in the table.

Defeat for Liverpool this weekend would leave them 10 points adrift of their arch-rivals and put Champions League qualification even further out of sight.

But Rodgers insists facing up to their greatest rivals could be the ideal remedy.

"The game against Manchester United is perfect for us and we hope to take confidence and spirit into the game," he said.

"It's more than a football game - you're representing a city and a group of supporters where there has been a great rivalry over many years.

"You've just got to find the ways to refocus the minds of the players, forget and learn from the experiences, and look at it as an opportunity to go and get onto a winning run.

"You have to be [determined] when you're at a club this size. The expectancy is what you want.

"We're very much focused on improving that performance level. We know that we can do that - we can put a run of results together that can keep us climbing.

"But really we want to keep improving on the performance level. As my teams have shown, we'll get better as the season goes on but we want to start that sooner rather than later."

Unsurprisingly criticism increased after their Champions League failure but Rodgers said they would shrug that off and look to bounce back.

"One thing that we've always had here has been the spirit in the camp," he added.

"No matter what the outside influences, what is spoken and written about, we've always retained that strong mentality and the focus is very much back on getting ourselves sorted for the weekend.

"It was vital we could not dwell on the disappointment for too long."

Striker Mario Balotelli is back in training and could return to the squad. The Italy forward has been sidelined since November 8 because of a groin problem sustained on international duty.

Midfielder Adam Lallana will be in the squad despite breaking two ribs just over a week ago while centre-back Kolo Toure is expected to have recovered from a groin injury which kept him out of the Basle game.

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