Manchester United boss Van Gaal braced for Derby duel in FA Cup

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has his back to the wall once again ahead of his side’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at second-tier Derby County on Friday.

Saturday’s woeful 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton prompted press reports that Van Gaal had offered to resign and although those claims were rebutted by figures within the club, defeat at Derby will see the speculation ramp up all over again.

United needed a stoppage-time Wayne Rooney penalty to overcome third-tier Sheffield United in round three and the United captain is anticipating another testing evening at the iPro Stadium, where United won 4-1 in the fifth round in 2009.

“We know, as we’ve played there before, that it will be a difficult game with a good atmosphere on Friday night,” Rooney told MUTV.

“I’m sure they will be really up for it with their crowd and we will be up for it as we’ve experienced these games. The players who joined us last year and played against Cambridge and Yeovil will have seen that an FA Cup tie like this is more of a battle than a football game.

“We have to be ready for that and be ready for a tough game as the cup is full of surprises. Derby have nothing to lose. No-one is expecting them to win and they will try to cause an upset. We know that and have to be ready for that.

“It will be a difficult night for us. Sheffield United at home was a tough game, so we have to be ready to battle and win the battle. Hopefully then our qualities will show through.”

Derby, managed by former Real Madrid assistant coach Paul Clements, go into the game on the back of a heavy 4-1 loss to Championship promotion rivals Burnley, which left them fifth in England’s second division.

But Clements is relishing the chance to lead his players out against United, who Derby last overcame in the FA Cup in 1897.

“What a challenge, to play one of arguably the biggest clubs in world football,” he told the Derby website.

“It’s clear they’re not having the best time themselves at the moment, but it’s an opportunity for two teams to come together and put in a performance.

“It’s going to be nice to put ourselves up against a very good side with world-class players, and a fantastic coach in Van Gaal.”

– Arsenal seek Burnley reaction –

Van Gaal’s defensive injury problems continue to mount, with right-back Matteo Darmian, who sustained a rib injury against Southampton, joining Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and auxiliary full-back Ashley Young on the sidelines.

Central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is also unavailable with a knee injury.

Derby could award a debut to Swedish international left-back Marcus Olsson, who signed from Blackburn Rovers this week.

Holders Arsenal continue their quest for a third successive FA Cup trophy — a feat last achieved by Blackburn between 1884 and 1886 — at home to Burnley on Saturday.

Arsenal squandered an opportunity to regain top spot in the Premier League last Sunday when they lost 1-0 at home to Chelsea, which left them without a win in three games, and right-back Hector Bellerin has urged his teammates to put the disappointment behind them.

“We need to focus on the next game and it does not matter about the trend,” the Spaniard told the club website.

“We are not thinking about that. We are just thinking about winning and getting ahead.”

Liverpool host West Ham United on Saturday, while Manchester City visit the Premier League’s bottom club, Aston Villa.

Liverpool and Manchester City both reached the League Cup final in midweek.

Guus Hiddink’s quest to repeat his 2009 FA Cup triumph with Chelsea continues on Sunday when his side visit second-tier Milton Keynes Dons, who famously humiliated Manchester United — and Van Gaal — 4-0 in last season’s League Cup.

Fixtures

Friday (1945 GMT):

Derby County v Manchester United

Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):

Arsenal v Burnley, Aston Villa v Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United, Bury v Hull City, Colchester United v Tottenham Hotspur (1245 GMT), Crystal Palace v Stoke City, Liverpool v West Ham United (1730 GMT), Nottingham Forest v Watford, Oxford United v Blackburn Rovers, Portsmouth v Bournemouth, Reading v Walsall, Shrewsbury Town v Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Albion v Peterborough United

Sunday:

Carlisle United v Everton (1330 GMT), Milton Keynes Dons v Chelsea (1600 GMT)

Photo Credits : AFP

Even I’m bored by United admits Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal admits there have been times this season when even he has been left feeling bored and angry by Manchester United’s lacklustre displays.

United ended an eight-match winless run by defeating Swansea nine days ago and then followed that victory up with a narrow success in the FA Cup against third tier Sheffield United.

But neither result was enough to ease the pressure on United boss Van Gaal because of the dull and uninspiring performances of his team.

Paul Scholes branded United’s style of play boring earlier this season and following Saturday’s 1-0 victory in the FA Cup, the former Old Trafford great claimed both Van Gaal and his players even looked bored during the third round tie.

Van Gaal, already forced to insist he wouldn’t resign due to the criticism of his methods from disgruntled fans earlier this season, will come under renewed fire if United fail to win at struggling Newcastle in the Premier League on Tuesday.

And ahead of that fixture, the 64-year-old finally conceded some of the football on display at Old Trafford this season has been dull.

“There are matches that I have enjoyed,” Van Gaal told reporters on Monday.

“And there are also matches where I’m very bored or angry because we are not disorganising our opponent’s defence, but that is football.”

Despite that admission, the Dutchman still slammed suggestions that his primary aim is to stifle the opposition rather than attack.

“Do you know that,” he snapped at reporters. “I am not concerned (about defending more than attacking).

“At this moment we have a lack of creativity and you can see that but they have done it (played well in the past) so they can do it.”

Asked if he needed to show more passion on the touchline in the style of legendary United boss Alex Ferguson, Van Gaal was adamant he would remain true to his own style.

“I’m not Sir Alex, as you know,” said Van Gaal, who has rarely come to the touchline to speak to his players during his spell at the club.

“Everybody is different and I don’t believe in yelling from the sidelines. I believe in communication during the week, during the preparation and I believe in my players who have to perform.

“It’s very difficult because of the noise.

“A lot of managers are (yelling from the sidelines) but I doubt if they have real influence.”

Photo Credits : AFP

I’ll quit United if I lose dressing room, warns Van Gaal

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has warned he will quit Old Trafford if he loses the support of his players.

Van Gaal has come under fire this season for his conservative tactics and United’s subsequent failure to play the kind of entertaining football that was their hallmark during the Alex Ferguson era.

United fans have occasionally shown their displeasure by booing the team’s dour performances and even more worrying for van Gaal, it has been reported that several players are unhappy with his dull style.

Although United, who face West Ham on Saturday, are third in the Premier League, they are in danger of elimination from the Champions League ahead of their final group game at Wolfsburg next week.

That would be a big blow to the Dutchman’s credibility and, while van Gaal insists he has a good relationship with his players at present, he made it clear he would have no qualms about quitting if the situation soured.

“The most important thing is the chemistry between players and staff,” Van Gaal told reporters on Friday.

“And when I have the feeling that the chemistry is there, I will always work to my utmost best.

“But when I have a single feeling that it is not like that, I’m the first coach that quits and I have proved that already with my former clubs and former jobs.

“Yes, of course because I always gave my clubs structure and I think structure is very important in a club, but also in a company, everywhere.”

When asked about his relationship with his players, Van Gaal said: “It’s good.”

Yet, as Van Gaal pointed out, he has walked away from clubs of his own accord during his 24-year management career.

After falling out with a number of players, Van Gaal left Barcelona during his second spell at the club and he quit his role as Ajax technical director following a power struggle with then manager Ronald Koeman.

Van Gaal also threatened to walk away from AZ Alkmaar in 2008 after finishing 11th in the Eredivisie, but was persuaded to stay on and led the club to the title the following year.

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal vexed by misfiring Manchester United

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admitted to concerns about his team’s goal-scoring problems after they were bundled out of the League Cup on penalties by second-tier Middlesbrough.

The Premier League giants contrived to fail with three of their four attempts in Wednesday’s 3-1 shoot-out loss, with England internationals Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young all unsuccessful.

That followed a goalless tie, including extra time, which extended United’s run without a goal in domestic football to 238 minutes following a drab stalemate with Manchester City in last weekend’s Manchester derby.

“Yes, of course,” said Van Gaal when asked if he was worried about the statistics. “Because in football all that matters is a goal and we have played two matches zero-zero.

“In my opinion, we could have scored also against Manchester City, but now, again, we did not score. It’s a concern, but I do know also it can easily turn around in the next game.”

That next game comes at Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Van Gaal adamant that United’s recent run of troubles in front of goal will have no adverse effect on his players.

“We are top sportsmen and you know that in any sport, there is not only winning, you lose also and you have to lift yourself,” he said.

“It’s disappointing. It’s also disappointing for me, but tomorrow (Thursday) is another day and the day after tomorrow is already more about preparation for Crystal Palace.”

Despite the desperate showing from the penalty spot against Middlesbrough, — with only youngster Andreas Pereira successful in four attempts — Van Gaal refused to be critical of the players who fluffed their lines in what the Dutch veteran described as the “casino” of a penalty shoot-out.

“In the goal was a goalkeeper (Tomas Mejias) and he was very quick and he gambled,” he said.

“And he’s 195 centimetres (6’4”) also, so that’s not easy to do. When the goalkeeper is gambling for the right corner, you need players who look at the goalkeeper and put it in the other (side).

“But you have already played 120 minutes, so you’re not so sharp any more. That’s why these things happen.”

– ‘Fans deserve home tie’ –

Van Gaal made nine changes to his starting line-up and handed a first start of the season to James Wilson, although the youngster limped off at half-time to be replaced by Rooney.

While the Dutchman claimed United should have had a late penalty for handball and were generally unfortunate, he also expressed pride in their efforts.

“You can say it’s unlucky, but I said that after the City match also,” he added.

“You have to force the luck, but we didn’t do that because we didn’t score. That’s why I’m disappointed.

“But my players have given everything. That’s why I’m also proud of them because they have done it until the end.”

Victorious manager Aitor Karanka, who masterminded Middlesbrough’s shock FA Cup win at Manchester City in January, is relishing the prospect of a quarter-final home tie with Everton, who are managed by fellow Spaniard Roberto Martinez.

“The first thing is the tie is at home and our fans deserve to be at home for once,” said the former Real Madrid defender, whose side were supported by over 10,000 travelling fans at Old Trafford.

“Secondly we are playing Everton and if I have had any success since arriving here, it is because Roberto has given me a lot of advice since I came here.

“I didn’t know him until I came here, but he sent me a letter to say welcome and then he called me and we had a really good chat.

“He was telling me a lot of things and I learned a lot from that side. He is a good friend, he’s doing really well, and I’m pleased to be playing him.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal rules out transfer remedy for Manchester United

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said that he would not jump into the transfer market to solve his side’s goal-scoring problems following their 2-1 defeat at Swansea City.

Juan Mata gave United the lead in the 48th minute at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, but after Swansea manager Garry Monk had altered his midfield configuration to a diamond, the hosts struck twice in five minutes.

Andre Ayew equalised in the 61st minute with a smart downward header that beat Sergio Romero and then produced a fine pass for Bafetimbi Gomis to beat Romero at the near post for the winner.

Ashley Williams’s last-ditch tackle denied Wayne Rooney a late equaliser, ending United’s unbeaten record and leaving Van Gaal’s side with a return of just three goals from four league games.

Asked if he would look to bolster his squad with extra attacking power before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, Van Gaal replied: “You can never speak as a club like United that you are satisfied.

“(But) certainly we shall not sign at the end of the transfer period a player that we have not scouted before.

“We know in offence what is happening or not happening. It is not an issue. When it is like that we have to keep going and in January, the (transfer) window is open again.

“It is a process and I cannot change that process because you are dependable not only (on) the player you want, but also the club.”

One issue still dogging Van Gaal concerns goalkeeper David de Gea.

Van Gaal has dropped De Gea following months of speculation linking the Spaniard with a move to Real Madrid, but the manager said that he was happy to take a back seat in the club’s transfer dealings.

“We will have to wait and see,” he said. “I don’t want to interfere. As a club, we have divided our tasks and the task is for (executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward and not me.

“I don’t want to interfere with words or nothing. It is a process and we have to wait and see. The club will announce it and so on.”

– ‘Character and passion’ –

On the game, van Gaal said: “It is a feeling of frustration, but more disappointment.

“For 85 minutes we were the dominant side. However, we have lost the game in five minutes. And we lost because they changed the shape.

“Both teams did everything to win, but in five minutes, they changed shape and scored twice. It’s a big lesson to us because we have to adapt far more quickly than we did. They changed and we didn’t see it.”

Van Gaal was in no mood to point the finger of blame at individuals and dismissed suggestions Romero had been partly at fault for both goals.

“In the end, the pressure for the last defender or the goalkeeper is always higher than it is further up the pitch,” he said. “But I don’t agree that the goalkeeper was not so good today.”

Swansea manager Garry Monk, meanwhile, is in no rush to add anyone to his squad, following an impressive win that left his side in fourth place.

“I’m very happy,” said the former Swansea centre-back, who has won all three of his league games as a manager against United by a 2-1 scoreline.

“I felt we should make a tactical change in the second half and I thought that allowed us to get back into the game. It was the right thing to do and it made us more of a threat.

“We scored the goals at great times and they were both excellent finishes. I thought we were very clinical.

“They didn’t cope with that change and failed to react to it. That’s why we took advantage. After that we defended really well.

“But the most pleasing thing is the character and passion. We have played some amazing football this season, but that passion is just fantastic.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal’s winning formula boosts United

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling says Louis van Gaal has finally discovered a winning formula ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Van Gaal chopped and changed his side at the start of his United reign last season and had to wait four games for his first Premier League win.

But 12 months later, the United manager is reaping the rewards of selecting a more settled line-up.

And while he may make the odd tweak against Newcastle this weekend, with Bastian Schweinsteiger pressing for a full debut in midfield, continuity appears to be the key.

That is particularly the case in defence with the same goalkeeper and back four likely to continue their ever-present records, having played together for every minute of United’s two Premier League wins and their midweek 3-1 Champions League play-off first-leg victory against Club Brugge.

Smalling is one of those to have benefitted from van Gaal’s policy and he should carry on alongside Daley Blind in the middle of United’s defence.

The England international is convinced the selection policy is paying off as van Gaal’s side have kept clean sheets in their league games against Tottenham and Aston Villa this season.

“Last season there were that many changes it was hard to get a good run – even though I still don’t think we conceded that many goals in the second half of the season,” he said.

“But that togetherness and that work ethic is showing on the pitch now because we are not letting that many chances in.”

– Benchmark –

United’s winning start has made them one of four teams with 100 per cent records in the Premier League.

And with an early kick-off to look forward to against winless Newcastle on Saturday, Smalling wants United to steal an early march on their rivals for top spot.

“We must continue our good start. It is another home game and we have to assert ourselves early on,” he said.

“It is good that we again get to be in the first game that plays and, hopefully, set the benchmark for the weekend.”

United will again be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who scored in their Champions League win but still has to complete a domestic three-match ban.

Goalkeeper David de Gea is again expected to be overlooked as his future at Old Trafford remains uncertain, while defender Phil Jones is also set to be absent through injury.

Florian Thauvin hopes to make his Newcastle debut at Old Trafford after sealing his move from Marseille.

The arrival of the France Under-21 international on a five-year contract takes the Tyneside club’s spending since last season to £47.7 million ($74 million), and the 22-year-old former Lille midfielder said: “I’m delighted to be about to start my Newcastle career against such a big team with such a great reputation.

“I can’t wait to get out there, and I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s great to know that Newcastle have wanted me for such a long time, and to know they wanted me so badly. It’s a massive club.”

Newcastle’s Dutch full-back Daryl Janmaat is suspended after his red card in the 2-0 defeat at Swansea that leaves Steve McClaren’s side searching for their first victory of the season, at a ground where they’ve won just once in 43 years.

Steven Taylor is expected to start alongside skipper Fabricio Coloccini in central defence, with Chancel Mbemba switching to right-back.

Photo Credits : AFP

Victorious Van Gaal wants more from Man Utd

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal upbraided his attacking players for their sloppiness after they beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park to record back-to-back Premier League victories.

Adnan Januzaj marked his return to the starting XI with a 29th-minute winner on Friday as United moved to the top of the table, but Van Gaal was dismayed by the ease with which his team conceded possession.

Having mustered only one shot on target in their 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, United found the target just twice against Villa, but it was wayward passes, rather than shots, that concerned Van Gaal.

“When you score more than your opponent, it’s enough,” he said. “But I think you are right, because we had too many unnecessary ball losses.

“That was not only Adnan Januzaj, but also Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney. So a lot of players. I can say more. We have to improve that.

“But in spite of this, we had more chances than the opposition, and bigger chances, and we scored a fantastic goal after a fantastic pass from Juan Mata and a fantastic cut from Adnan.”

Januzaj’s goal saw him race onto a splendid pass from Juan Mata before cutting inside Villa captain Micah Richards and beating Brad Guzan with the help of a deflection off Ciaran Clark.

Januzaj was replaced by Ander Herrera on the hour and while Van Gaal said the substitution had been pre-planned, he was critical of the Belgian’s use of the ball.

“I’m pleased with the goal, because it was a wonderful goal, how Adnan scored, but you have to do more than only scoring a goal,” said the Dutchman. “That was less good than the goal.”

Asked if Januzaj had lost the ball too much for his liking, Van Gaal replied: “Yes.”

Januzaj has been linked with a loan move to Sunderland, but while he said he intended to stay at Old Trafford and fight for his place — dismissing the speculation linking him to the Stadium of Light as “just rumours” — Van Gaal was coy when asked if the winger would be loaned out.

“You have to wait and see until we close the transfer period,” he said. “That’s now my benefit of this transfer period.”

– Sherwood sanguine –

Van Gaal refused to be drawn on David de Gea’s future after the Spanish goalkeeper, strongly linked with Real Madrid, was again left out in favour of Sergio Romero.

And while he said United would go into Tuesday’s Champions League play-off first leg at home to Club Brugge with confidence, he warned that his side would need a defensive performance of similar fortitude to those produced against Villa and Spurs.

“When you win two times then you shall have a lot of confidence, but every match is difficult,” he said.

“Belgian teams can play very compact and can defend and always a team has a chance. When they score out of that chance, it shall be very difficult.”

Villa manager Tim Sherwood gave home debuts to six players and with four of them taking their first steps in the Premier League, he conceded that it will take time for his team to find a winning formula.

“The players are still acclimatising to England, let alone the football, but it’s going to take time,” he said.

“We expected that. But they give me everything and they try and take instruction on. It’s not perfect, but they will improve.

“The idea is to get them on the training field and hope they can gel.”

Villa might have had a penalty shortly before half-time when United right-back Matteo Darmian appeared to grapple with Richards, but Sherwood was sanguine about referee Mike Dean’s decision to wave play on.

“You can get them. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t,” he said.

“I won’t be sticking pins in the referee. We didn’t get it, got a deflection on the goal. Someone wasn’t shining on us.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal hopeful De Gea will stay at Man Utd

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes goalkeeper David de Gea may yet play for the club again despite being dropped for their opening-day Premier League victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

Spain international De Gea was not included in United’s squad for Saturday’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford and watched from the directors’ box after Van Gaal decided he was not sufficiently focused amid ongoing speculation about a transfer to Real Madrid.

Van Gaal instead put his faith in Sergio Romero, who joined United on a free transfer in the close season after his release from Sampdoria, and he made a number of vital saves on his debut as United kept a clean sheet.

However, Van Gaal dismissed suggestions that De Gea had played his last game for the club and revealed that the 24-year-old had agreed that he was not in the right frame of mind to feature against Spurs.

“Can he (De Gea) play for United again? Of course,” said the Dutchman. “The position of the goalkeeper is a position especially that you needed the highest concentration and the highest focus during 90 minutes.

“And when you are in circumstances where David de Gea is, it is difficult to cope with that. And we have seen that.

“We have observed in the preparation, in the matches against PSG and Barcelona. And that was not the David de Gea — and he felt the same — as last year.”

Van Gaal hinted that he may not pick De Gea until the transfer window closes at the start of next month and praised Argentina international Romero for his impressive debut performance.

“Of course when the situation has been cleared after September 1 we will look again,” Van Gaal said. “But I’m happy Sergio did well.

“Sergio saved us twice, so that’s also good. Sergio trained only two days with his fellow players and you always train with the group who will play to intensify the cooperation between players.

“So it was logical that his understanding was not so good. But the important thing is he stops the balls and he did that.”

– Spurs ‘finished fresh’ –

United handed debuts to five of their close-season signings, but the overall performance against Tottenham was unconvincing and they required an own goal from Kyle Walker to secure victory.

In addition to Romero, forward Memphis Depay, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and right-back Matteo Darmian all started, while German midfield star Bastian Schweinsteiger came off the bench.

And it was the adventurous display of Italian full-back Darmian that drew the most praise from Van Gaal.

“When I have to pick up one player, I think Matteo was the best player,” he said. “Because he played in ball possession very good with not too many ball failure passes.

“But the most important thing is that we have won because there was a lot of pressure on the match, because our start last year was very bad.”

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino felt his side were unfortunate not to come away from the game with something to show for their performance.

“I think we created more chances and deserved more than to lose 1-0,” he said.

“I was not surprised by our dominance because as always we try to dominate the game. This is our style and our philosophy.

“Manchester United, at Old Trafford, after 94 minutes had maybe one shot on target. Some days in football you need to be lucky. It was difficult for us because we created chances and were unlucky not to score.

“We finished the game fresh. If you see the game, some players from Manchester United (had) cramps. But football is about the score.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Man United boss van Gaal salutes ‘great captain’ Rooney

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has saluted the leadership of Wayne Rooney as he prepares to reward the Red Devils captain by playing him in his preferred role of centre-forward.

Rooney was handed the captain’s armband by van Gaal last August during his first season in charge at Old Trafford, and the England striker’s performance in the role made a lasting impression on the Dutchman.

“I could not have expected more,” van Gaal told reporters Monday as United prepared for the second game of their US tour against San Jose Earthquakes.

“I think he’s a great captain. Better than I had expected. He is fully accepted by the players and that’s also very important because I can choose the captain — but the players decide.”

Rooney spent a frustrating season at United last year being deployed in various positions, from midfield, out wide or as a withdrawn striker.

Now however van Gaal plans to give Rooney an opportunity to nail down his favoured starting position as an out-and-out centre-forward.

“I’ve listened to you and that’s why,” van Gaal joked to journalists on Monday when asked to explain his decision.

“I think you have more knowledge than I, so now Rooney is there.”

– Rooney target –

Rooney, who led the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation for 45 minutes against Club America in Seattle on Friday, is relishing the chance to stake a claim to the striker’s role.

“My best position, and I have always said it, is as a striker, getting into the box,” Rooney told British media.

“And the two seasons I have really done that as a lone striker have been my two best goalscoring seasons.

“It is where the manager and myself see my best position.

“Hopefully I can get a good run of games and repay the manager and score goals for the team, but it is obviously on me to do that.

“I have no doubts that I can score 20 goals or more again and I am ready to take on that mantle and be the one who gets the goals for this team.

“If I play up there again this season, then I can get the goals. It is where I like and it is where I will play.”

Rooney has set himself a target of scoring more than 20 goals for United this season after finding the net just 14 times last year in all competitions, his lowest return since joining United from Everton in 2004.

The 29-year-old believes his goalscoring record for England suggests he will provide United with a potent threat following the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.

“I have played different roles over the years for United, but you only have to look when I play for England as a striker, I score goals,” Rooney said.

“I hope to score 20 or more goals again this season. If I am playing as a striker, I will be disappointed if I cannot that do that.

“The last time I really played the full season as a striker was 2011-12. All the other seasons, I have been up front, then in midfield or out wide, so hopefully I will stay up front.”

After United play San Jose on Tuesday they face a further game against Barcelona on Saturday before wrapping up their tour against Paris Saint Germain in Chicago.

Photo Credits : AFP

Falcao leaves Manchester, returns to Monaco

Colombia striker Radamel Falcao has returned to Monaco following his season-long loan spell at Manchester United, the English club announced on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, who joined the Reds on transfer deadline day last September, had a tough time at Old Trafford, scoring just four goals in 29 appearances.

“Falcao is a top professional and a good human being. On behalf of myself and everyone at the club I would like to wish him well for the future,” United’s coach Louis van Gaal told the club’s official website.

United won a hotly-contested race to sign the Colombia striker on loan from Monaco last close season, as La Liga giants Real Madrid seemed poised to attract the former Porto and Atletico Madrid forward.

Manchester had the chance to sign him on a permanent basis for £43.2million, but the club have told Falcao they will not exercise that option.

Falcao was even left out of United’s squad for the final game of the season at Hull on Sunday through injury, according to Van Gaal.

‘El Tigre’, as he is known to Colombian fans, may not stay for long in the Principality as the striker has been reportedly linked with moves to Chelsea, who are looking to replace Didier Drogba, or his former club Atletico, who could lose forward Mario Mandzukic.

Falcao missed last year’s World Cup with a knee injury.

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal steals show at Man Utd awards

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was the talk of social media in Britain on Wednesday after an eccentric turn at the club’s end-of-season awards ceremony at Old Trafford.

The 63-year-old Dutchman clipped assistant manager Ryan Giggs around the ear after the Welshman outbid him for a round of golf with former United striker Dwight Yorke during an auction at the event on Tuesday.

He then took to the stage to deliver a rambling seven-minute speech, at one point punching the air and roaring “Yes!” as he recalled a team meeting at which captain Wayne Rooney had urged the team to push for second place in the Premier League.

Van Gaal also said that United had been “very close” to winning the title, despite the fact they currently trail champions Chelsea by 15 points.

After concluding his speech, which was broadcast live on United’s in-house television channel MUTV, Van Gaal returned to the stage and interrupted the presenter by saying: “Hello, hello! Pay attention to the manager!”

He went on to chastise the crowd for not applauding a female saxophonist, saying: “I have seen a lady who plays the saxophone fantastically. Give her a big applause!”

Former United captain Gary Neville tweeted: “LVG is cracking me up here. Great entertainment! One of the best/funniest 20 mins I’ve ever had!”

United goalkeeper David de Gea, who has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid, won both the Players’ Player and Fans’ Player of the Year awards for the second season running.

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal beams after Man Utd storm Anfield

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal heralded his team’s 2-1 victory over Champions League qualification rivals Liverpool at Anfield as “one of the most important in my career”.

Juan Mata scored twice in Sunday’s Premier League game, either side of a red card for home captain Steven Gerrard, and despite Daniel Sturridge hitting back, Liverpool fell to a first loss in 14 league matches.

Victory strengthened United’s grip on the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth, with Liverpool now five points behind and Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur a point further back, leaving Van Gaal to reflect on a potentially decisive afternoon.

“It is the moment we are coming back and we beat Liverpool again,” said the Dutchman, whose side had condemned Liverpool to their last defeat with a 3-0 win at Old Trafford in mid-December.

“We beat them again with their own weapons and the pressure on the ball.

“Now the gap is five points ahead of Liverpool and six ahead of Tottenham and Southampton, so the moment to win is one of the most important in my career.”

Mata’s superb performance in United’s 3-0 defeat of Tottenham meant that he held on to his place despite Angel di Maria’s return from suspension and he rewarded Van Gaal’s faith with a fine display.

His 14th-minute opener saw him run on to a pass from Ander Herrera and beat Simon Mignolet with his right foot, while his second goal on the hour was sublime — an acrobatic scissors kick from Di Maria’s clipped pass.

Mata has struggled to hold down a first-team place this season, but Van Gaal offered a glowing assessment of his current form.

“Now he is playing as a false right-winger and the combination with Herrera and (Antonio) Valencia gives him more opportunities, so I am very pleased,” Van Gaal said.

“I think he was one of my most constantly playing players, also in the beginning of the season, so I am not amazed, but I am very happy with him.”

– Big challenge –

Gerrard apologised in a television interview for his dismissal, which came just 43 seconds after he had replaced Adam Lallana at half-time.

The former England captain, who recently returned from a hamstring injury, reacted to Herrera’s sliding challenge by slyly stamping on the Spaniard’s calf, prompting referee Martin Atkinson to brandish a straight red card.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that Gerrard had been “probably a little frustrated” about having to watch the first half from the bench, but he refused to condemn his California-bound captain, who will join the Los Angeles Galaxy at the season’s end.

“I won’t criticise him because he’s been brilliant in my time here,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes these things happen. We’ll move on.”

Rodgers also played down an incident at the death — moments after Mignolet had saved a Wayne Rooney penalty — that saw centre-back Martin Skrtel tread on United goalkeeper David de Gea after chasing a through ball in vain, saying that it “looked worse in slow-motion”.

Liverpool’s defeat at Old Trafford proved the spur for a 13-game unbeaten run that revitalised their season and Rodgers urged his players to channel the frustration from their latest setback in the same fashion.

Asked about his side’s chances of a top-four finish, he replied: “It’s a big challenge. But when I looked at the 10 games that were remaining, it was always going to be difficult to win all 10 of them.

“So we’d built (factored) in a loss and maybe some draws in that. We hoped it wouldn’t be in this game against a rival, but it’s still very much possible.

“There’s five points between us and them. We’ve now got to recover and use this as the same springboard we did in the last game.

“We’ll go away now and recover and look to get a victory in our next game (away to Arsenal), which we’ve shown we’re more than capable of.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Man Utd face decisive stretch starting with Spurs

Manchester United will begin a five-game period which could define their season when they seek to recover from the bitter disappointment of their FA Cup exit in a Premier League clash against Tottenham on Sunday.

After the meeting with Spurs at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal’s side take on Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in their next four games as the battle intensifies to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

Aston Villa are the other team United must face in that period but van Gaal is in little doubt that, with only 10 games left in the season and with Arsenal having ended United’s interest in the FA Cup quarter-finals last Monday, this span of games will be crucial.

“You are right. It is very decisive, the coming matches,” van Gaal said.

“Of course, after a defeat at home, it is also important to see the reaction of the team.

“We play against a very good team in Tottenham. We are so close with a lot of clubs. We can be second or third. It is not a big difference I believe.

“Manchester United has to be one of the teams who has to play in the Champions League. We have seen that this year. It is not good, surely, if it is the second year (without Champions League football).

“But it is always possible because you never win every game and there are a lot of clubs who are going for it. But we have the confidence to reach the goal that we have set at the beginning of the season.”

Van Gaal must decide whether to continue with Wayne Rooney in attack.

After abandoning the use of the England centre-forward in a midfield position, van Gaal has seen his player score three times in as many games but has warned that Rooney is not guaranteed to remain up front.

“Now, in this moment, I think it is better to play Rooney (in attack),” he said.

“But it can be another line-up on Sunday. It depends on what I see, the game plan of my opponent and then also from the suspensions I have or the injured players.

“I have said that Rooney is a striker who can also play in midfield. He has shown that. He has also played – once – as a defensive midfielder.”

– Back on track –

Back to back victories have helped Tottenham move on quickly from their League Cup final defeat against Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino’s side head to Old Trafford knowing a third successive win would move them level on points with United.

“We are having a great time,” said Pochettino. “We go to Manchester United believing in our style and we will try to win three points.

“We have full respect for United but we are very focused on our game, which is the most important thing.

“A lot of teams are fighting for the same target and we are very close, so we know it is very difficult.

“We have 10 games left, we will try to win at Manchester United and after that we will see what happens.”

Harry Kane will again lead the Spurs attack after scoring twice in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at QPR and this week collecting his second successive Premier League player of the month award.

Pochettino, though, this week singled out one of his lower profile players for praise, insisting left-back Danny Rose deserves international recognition for his efforts this season.

The defender is in contention for a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifier with Lithuania and the Spurs manager is in no doubt Rose should be handed a call-up.

“In my opinion, he has been the best English left-back this season,” said Pochettino.

“His performances have been great but after that it’s Roy Hodgson’s decision, not mine.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal relief as United snatch late win

Louis Van Gaal admitted he feared Manchester United would lose ground on their rivals in the top four race before Ashley Young’s late strike clinched a crucial 1-0 win at Newcastle.

Young’s 89th minute goal secured three vital points at St James’ Park on Wednesday for a relieved van Gaal, whose side has lost only twice in their last 22 Premier League matches.

It was also a night which will create more positive and negative headlines, as United defender Jonny Evans was accused of spitting at Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse and Jonas Gutierrez wore the famous black and white stripes for the first time in 17 months following his successful treatment for testicular cancer.

Van Gaal was delighted with the result, but admitted he endured some nervous moments in a pulsating game, capped by a number of tremendous saves by both keepers.

“I’m very pleased with the performance but we did not reward ourselves for a long time and in football when you do that you can come away with a negative result,” he said.

“It was so important we had to win today as all our competitors also won in our rat race.

“David De Gea made two fantastic caves, as did Tim Krul, but we waited a long time for the winning goal. It showed the fighting spirit of our team.

“We got our reward at the end of the match. It was a fantastic moment for us because all our competitors won.

“We are still fourth in the league after a difficult match, in front of a difficult crowd, so we are now full of confidence to take on Arsenal in the FA Cup.

“I lost here before with Barcelona and AZ Alkmaar so I knew it was a difficult ground. Ryan Giggs told me they would pressurise us and we have to make the crowd quiet, which I think we did. We deserved the win.”

When asked about the spitting incident involving Evans and Cisse, van Gaal replied: “I cannot imagine Jonny Evans doing anything like that as he is a very modest person.

“I cannot imagine he would do that. It was not a discussion in the dressing room.”

But angry Newcastle head coach John Carver said: “You can’t do it, can you? It is one of the worst things in football.”

– Unsavoury clash –

The FA will look at video evidence before taking any action, but both players could be charged following their unsavoury clash.

Controversy erupted early on as Newcastle fans screamed for a 10th minute penalty after Emmanuel Riviere appeared to be upended by Chris Smalling, while at the other end Wayne Rooney beat the offside trap only to dink his effort past Krul and the wrong side of the upright.

Riviere missed two more glorious chances to break the deadlock, before Krul produced an incredible double save to first deny Marouane Fellaini, then Young.

After 65 minutes St James’ Park rose to its feet in unison as Gutierrez made his long-awaited return from cancer.

The Argentine winger replaced Ryan Taylor and was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Fabricio Coloccini as a gesture of support for his successful battle.

Within two minutes Gutierrez was given a yellow card for a foul on Adnan Januzaj and seconds later Cisse badly scuffed his shot wide of the target with just De Gea to beat, following a sterling run by Riviere.

It was just left to Young to provide the killer finish which keeps van Gaal’s in-form team gunning for the top four.

Photo Credits : AFP

Man Utd boss Van Gaal confident Di Maria will flourish

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says British record signing Angel Di Maria should be given more time to justify his price tag and be judged on his success at Old Trafford.

Di Maria joined United for £59.7m from Real Madrid last summer as part of United’s re-building plans under van Gaal.

But after an encouraging start to his career in English football, the Argentina international, 27, has struggled to find his best form in a United side, which despite occupying a top-four place in the Premier League has also stuttered at times.

Di Maria was substituted at half-time during United’s unconvincing 2-0 win over Sunderland last Saturday and looked a frustrated figure.

His home near Manchester was the subject of an attempted burglary in January which also unsettled the player and his family.

Van Gaal admits that all players need time to find their feet and says it’s too early to judge Di Maria’s impact.

The United manager said: “I think it counts for all the players that we have bought, the first season is always difficult. I have explained that in the press conference after the match (against Sunderland).

“You can see it for every player we have bought, Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Falcao and also Di Maria.

“For me it is not a big surprise, it is more a big surprise when he adapted as quickly as possible.

“In Holland, Spain and Germany I had the same experience with players. We have to give him time, not just Di Maria but all the players. We wait and see.”

Van Gaal hopes that next season will see all his recent signings fulfil their potential, although he admits there is no set formula for how long it takes a player to fully settle at a new club.

He added: “It is dependable, you have to manage so many aspects. Not just the game, but the culture.

“The general answer is one year but you can’t give a general answer. It is easy to say that, I cannot prove that. It is not scientifically proven.”

United’s re-built squad has looked unconvincing at times but has been beaten only twice in the league since the beginning of November.

Some home supporters appear to be losing patience at United’s methodical style but van Gaal insists he was happy with the overall performance in beating Sunderland with a game to come against further North East opposition – at Newcastle United – on Wednesday night

He said: “I remember the fantastic goal that Rooney scored after a fantastic counter. I have seen the match again and I think we played a good match.

“We won very deservedly, could have won more but it is always like that.”

Striker Robin van Persie is again missing for United’s trip to St James’ Park with an ankle injury with van Gaal saying it is still too early to say how long the Dutch international will be out.

United have no other injury worries and midfielder Michael Carrick could play a part against his hometown club after being an unused substitute against Sunderland.

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal admits Di Maria struggling at Man United

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal confessed that Angel di Maria is struggling to adjust to English football after substituting him at half-time of United’s 2-0 win over Sunderland.

After a promising start to his United career, following a club-record £59.7 million ($92.2 million, 82.3 million euros) transfer from Real Madrid, the form of the Argentina international has dipped.

Di Maria has scored just once for United since the start of October and, after an ineffective first half against Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday, he was taken off at the interval by Van Gaal.

“When a player is not in a match, I have to do that,” said Van Gaal of the substitution. “I’m the manager and I cannot deny what I see.

“We have to give Angel a little bit more time to adapt to the Premier League, the high English rhythm. It is not so easy.”

Di Maria’s adaptation to life in England has not been aided by a recent attempted burglary at his home, which occurred while he, his wife and young child were on the premises.

United have provided the family with security and moved them into a hotel, but Van Gaal conceded that the incident had not helped his star signing settle in Manchester.

“Of course,” said the Dutchman. “I have already talked about the ‘total human being principle’, so his environment also has an influence on him, on every human being.

“Me, as a manager, also I have to manage that environment. That takes more time for him? OK, give him that time.

“The difficulty, not only with Angel, but all players, is they have to adapt to the Premier League. He has to adapt to the culture also.

“We have to give him time to adapt, to lift his confidence again because that is also important. He’s also a human being, like me, like you. You can make mistakes.

“But he is a top sportsman and he shall overcome this period, I hope.”

– Poyet considers appeal –

With Di Maria off the field, his replacement Adnan Januzaj proved far more effective, with his shot leading to Wayne Rooney scoring the second of his two goals late in the game.

Earlier, Rooney had opened the scoring from the penalty spot after John O’Shea had hauled back Radamel Falcao in the Sunderland area, only for referee Roger East to send off his team-mate Wes Brown instead.

“I’m always happy when a player scores,” said Van Gaal of Rooney, who moved into double figures for the campaign.

“He said to me that normally he shoots the penalties high, but with this one he shot it along the floor. I think with this tall goalkeeper (Costel Pantilimon), that was a very good decision.

“I’m very happy that he shot the penalty like that.”

United were without Luke Shaw, who had a slight hamstring problem, and the ill pair Phil Jones and Victor Valdes.

Goalkeeper David de Gea also picked up a slight foot injury by kicking the ground during the game, but all four are thought to have a good chance of being available for Wednesday’s trip to Newcastle United.

Sunderland, meanwhile, visit Hull City on Tuesday with manager Gus Poyet contemplating whether to appeal against Brown’s red card in order for him to be available for that fixture.

“The referee told the players there were two fouls committed,” said Poyet. “One by John O’Shea, one by Wes Brown, and he gave the Wes Brown one. Wes Brown didn’t touch anyone, so I don’t know what he saw.

“We will put everything on the table and speak to the players and make a decision whether to appeal.”

Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body that manages Premier League referees, later released a statement explaining that East felt that Brown had also fouled Falcao and was more deserving of a red card.

Photo Credits : AFP

United have no 20-goal strikers – Van Gaal

Despite having Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao at his disposal, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has claimed there are no 20-goal strikers in his squad.

United have been far from prolific this season and their average return of 1.69 goals per game pales by comparison with Premier League pace-setters Chelsea and Manchester City (2.15).

Rooney (nine goals), Van Persie (10) and, in particular, Falcao (four) have struggled to find the net and Van Gaal believes that is one of the reasons why his side are vying for a top-four finish, rather than the title.

“It is true because I cannot deny it,” said the Dutchman in comments published by several British newspapers on Saturday.

“Robin van Persie cannot deny it, Falcao cannot deny it and Rooney — but he is not playing there (up front) so much any more. But we cannot deny that at this moment we don’t have a striker who scores 20 goals in the season.”

Despite Van Gaal’s complaint, all three of his senior strikers have previously surpassed the 20-goal mark in a league season — Van Persie twice, Rooney twice and Falcao three times.

With Van Persie sidelined by an ankle injury, on-loan Monaco striker Falcao was expected to start up front in United’s home game with Sunderland on Saturday.

Photo Credits : AFP

Van Gaal frustrated by Manchester United slip-up

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal expressed frustration after his side squandered a chance to avenge their Premier League opening day loss to Swansea City in a 2-1 defeat.

Ander Herrera gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, but Swansea equalised less than two minutes later through South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.

The game was won 17 minutes from time when Bafetimbi Gomis inadvertently deflected Jonjo Shelvey’s long-range strike over David de Gea to bring United’s 19-game unbeaten run to a halt.

“It is always frustrating when you dominate a team and lose,” van Gaal told reporters after a result that saw his team slip to fourth place.

“Your disappointment is much bigger because of that. If you think they deserved to win, you have to say.

“The first half, I think, was equal. I counted the number of chances Swansea had and we had the same. We scored one each, so there was no big difference.

“In the second half, there was a big difference. But we were not effective. We dominated the game, even with 10 men, because Robin van Persie could not run anymore after his injury.

“I cannot say anything about my players except that we lost. The disappointment is much bigger. I think you have to see the slow-motion of the match, then you can see which players were not effective.

“Sometimes you can control the ball instead of shooting directly. Normally we are very effective, so it is amazing that we have lost.”

Van Persie left the stadium on crutches after injuring himself late on and his striker partner Wayne Rooney admitted it had been a day to forget.

“We certainly deserved to win the game,” said the United captain. “That’s the disappointing thing. When you play well and can’t get the win. But that’s football.”

– ‘Better lucky than good’ –

Gomis’s fortuitous goal allowed ninth-place Swansea to complete a first ever home-and-away league double over United and victorious manager Garry Monk said he was more than satisfied with the manner of victory.

“I would rather be lucky than good,” he said. “Yes, we had to ride some pressure, but even with the players they have, they only had one shot.

“We scored a very good goal in the first half and responded as you would want your players to respond. We had shots cleared off the line and we more than competed.

“I think we needed to be a bit better in the second half, but we dealt with the pressure they put on us. In the end, we scored a fantastic goal and probably could have had a third.”

Monk also expressed pride in his players’ reaction after a disappointing 2-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion in their previous outing.

“It is the first time in the club’s history that we have got the double against them and I told the players before the game that anything, in terms of creating history, is worth fighting for,” he said.

“To be able to do the double, I think everyone connected with the club should be proud. I have always believed in my team.

“It won’t always go to plan, but we responded well after a disappointing result at West Brom. We stuck together and got the win, which our performance deserved. We have to be pleased.

“I have spoken to the group about an opportunity to create a special season. We might not be winning the league, but we have different things to fight for.

“You have to be remembered for something. We have 13 games left in our season and we have to remain focused on those games.”

Photo Credits : AFP