Louis van Gaal was his usual blunt self as the United manager held his first league press conference of the season ahead of his side’s season opener against Tottenham Hotspur; the Dutchman spoke candidly about United’s transfers, match fitness and key details of his squad
Louis van Gaal’s first press conference of the new season was marked largely by transfer news, though the Dutchman did divulge more than he is used to. Van Gaal broke his usual mould of rebuffing journalists, while adding a more humane and objective view to most of United’s most controversial stories over the past summer.
With the transfer mill spinning at full flow, Louis van Gaal has chosen not to select David De Gea for the opening game against Tottenham Hotspur. Amidst all the speculation involving Real Madrid, including an opening bid, van Gaal feels that De Gea has been mentally affected by the news, a sentiment exemplified by his outlying performance in the 0-2 loss to Paris Saint Germain, United’s final preseason game.
Van Gaal was frank with his assessment, highlighting in his pre-match press conference simply that,”He shall not play”. He further went on to explain: “A human being is more than just a player, and he cannot manage that [transfer rumours]”.
He did admit his passivity concerning the ordeal, admitting: “I cannot lead this process, I can only watch, and observe.”
Van Gaal certainly requires all of his players to be match fit as well as mentally ready. He emphasised on more than one occasion, that it’s always ‘very vital’ for United to get a good start. Dropping De Gea will no doubt intensify the transfer story that has been going around concerning Spain international, with many sections of the press believing that his transfer to Real has changed from a doubt, to an inevitability.
All things concerned however, United have done all that they can to convince De Gea to stay, offering him a considerably bigger contract than that he would get at Madrid. Rafa Benitez himself has kept mum on the talk of De Gea, and consequently admitted to being ‘pleased’ with his current choice of goalkeepers.
Van Gaal has however raised eyebrows by signing Argentine national keeper Sergio Romero, in case De Gea departs over the summer. The ball is in David De Gea’s court, as van Gaal and the club have done their bit in both offering incentives, as well as keeping Florentino Perez’s prying vulturous hands at bay.
Van Gaal was also keen to stress on the match fitness of his squad, in particular that of the players who had joined the pre-season late. Bastian Schweinsteiger had cut his holiday short, to be involved with pre-season. Though the move was a wise one, to ensure his integration into the squad, it has left him lacking the match rhythm that van Gaal demands of all his players.
While Schweinsteiger will no doubt feature prominently in United’s upcoming campaign, van Gaal knows that he will have to use the German captain judiciously. Letting him get to match fitness seems like a positive move to ensure that he doesn’t get injured early on in the season, something that could de-rail a good start to the campaign.
The transfer of Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint Germain drew the ire of many fans of the club. Van Gaal however, took a surprisingly objective approach in explaining his side of things. With regards to Di Maria, the Dutchman expained: “I need attackers with speed and creativity, Di Maria is one of those players”.
The Dutchman however cited that his replacement will have to have the ‘talent to cope with the English rhythm’ hinting that a problem in adjustment lay at the core of Di Maria’s failures at Old Trafford.
When asked who was at fault, van Gaal quite diplomatically responded: “You can never stipulate that.” Despite sympathising to a certain extent, van Gaal did end the matter bluntly, stating that “there is only one solution, what he has done.”
Whilst extraneous variables did have their part to play in Di Maria’s inconsistent performance, van Gaal’s comments seem to covey that it was not due to a lack of effort on the club’s part. He did admit that sometimes, situations don’t work out, however he does not necessarily feel his squad lacks much in the Argentine’s absence.
Van Gaal was bullishly confident heading into the new campaign, admitting that United are “far better now, than last year.” The manager himself proclaimed that he has a lot more confidence. “When we play in the same style and level as the last six months, then we can make a good year,” the Dutchman said.
In a far more comfortable place compared to the beginning of the last campaign, Louis van Gaal has every reason to feel confident heading into the new season. With new arrivals Darmian, Schneiderlin and Depay impressing in the pre-season, and youngsters Pereira and Lingard giving him more to think about, van Gaal’s Manchester United seem set to tackle the season well-prepared and head-on.