Van Gaal dismisses talk of ‘easy’ Champions League draw
The English giants, back in Europe’s top competition after a painful one-season absence, were drawn in the same Group B as PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.
It was generally accepted to be one of the more favourable draw available to the four English clubs in this season’s knock-out stages, although the Dutch manager was clearly determined not to be caught out by United’s opponents.
“It could be worse…and it could be better,” said van Gaal at a news conference on Friday.
“So it is always with a draw. We have to analyse the other teams and we have to analyse the other teams at this moment because you can look at the past but the present is more important.
“So my scout has already gone to Wolfsburg because they play tonight (Friday) against Schalke. Tomorrow, he is going to PSV Eindhoven because they play the day after that against Feyenoord.
“So we are already busy with a lot of things but it is usual that we’re doing that.”
Newly-arrived United forward Memphis Depay will have the opportunity to play against his former club PSV in the tournament, although the Champions League track record of the three rivals hardly suggests a tough time for van Gaal’s team.
Meanwhile, the United manager declared himself happy with the form of fringe players who may soon be pushing for first-team selection at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal gave six first team squad members game-time in a 2-1 ‘Under-21’ friendly win against Ajax with Antonio Valencia, Tyler Blackett, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and James Wilson all playing the entire game and defender Marcos Rojo getting 60 minutes.
– Herrera 10 –
“A lot of players could play for 90 minutes and that is also good for the building up of all the players who are not playing in the first squad,” said van Gaal.
“More than six first-team players played and Rojo also played for 60 minutes, so it was very important.
“It was good for them. It had a major impact because they played 90 minutes. Today they had a recovery day and they deserved that because I have seen it had a big impact on my players.
“The first goal was scored by Sean Goss, who was in the USA with us, and the second was scored by James Wilson. After that it was very close because of the fitness also, so it was very good we have organised that game and nobody is injured.”
With van Gaal apparently having more bodies from which to select, following returns from injury and a lack of pre-season training, the United manager is toying with the idea of using Ander Herrera in the ‘number 10’ position, playing behind his solitary striker.
The Spanish midfielder made his first start of the season in the comfortable 4-0 away victory against Club Brugge in a Champions League play-off second leg on Wednesday, which saw United complete a 7-1 aggregate victory that secured their return to the group stage.
“I started my campaign this year with Herrera on the bench so I had a theoretical scheme in my head that he could play as a 10, and he did well against Club Brugge,” van Gaal said.
“But in the second half it was easier for us to play.”