Louis van Gaal braced for play-off pres­sure game

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY TI­MOTHY ABRA­HAM

Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal ad­mits Tues­day’s Cham­pi­ons League play-off against Club Brugge will be one of the most pres­sur­ized games of his ten­ure so far.

The Red Devils host the Bel­gian Pro League side in the first leg at Old Traf­ford on Tues­day seek­ing a re­turn to Euro­pean soc­cer’s elite com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a one-sea­son hia­tus.

Given the ex­tra rev­enue that par­tic­i­pa­tion will gen­er­ate United’s hi­er­ar­chy made a place in the group stage a key tar­get for van Gaal, while ex­pec­ta­tion among the club’s sup­port­ers re­mains high.

And when asked if the tie will rep­re­sent the most sig­nif­i­cant matches he has faced since he re­placed David Moyes as man­ager the Dutch­man agreed.

Van Gaal said: “Of course. Be­cause the play­ers want to par­tic­i­pate, and the board wants to par­tic­i­pate, but es­pe­cially the fans want to par­tic­i­pate so the pres­sure is high.

“There is a lot of pres­sure be­cause our aim and goal is to reach the Cham­pi­ons League.

“This kind of matches are dif­fi­cult and be­cause of the draw I think it is much more dif­fi­cult be­cause we have drawn Brugge and Brugge can de­fend very well, and they can at­tack also.

“It will be a dif­fi­cult match and that is why the pres­sure is high. Ev­ery­one wants to par­tic­i­pate in the Cham­pi­ons League but first you have to beat Club Brugge.”

Speak­ing at a pre-match press con­fer­ence ahead of the first leg, Van Gaal also ad­dressed ques­tions re­gard­ing the sub­dued start to the sea­son made by United cap­tain Wayne Rooney.

The Eng­land in­ter­na­tional has been de­ployed in a lone striker role in United’s Premier League matches against Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and As­ton Villa, but strug­gled to make an im­pact.

Faith in Rooney

Rooney touched the ball once in the penalty area, in in­jury time, against Villa and has man­aged just three shots on tar­get in both fix­tures, but Van Gaal’s faith in the 29-year-old has not wa­vered.

“I think all the media has writ­ten for one year and ad­vised me I have to put him (Rooney) in the striker’s po­si­tion,” Van Gaal said.

“So it is very amaz­ing that af­ter two matches you are doubt­ing your own opin­ion so I can­not un­der­stand that. But I have al­ways con­fi­dence in my play­ers.

“We don’t just have only Wayne Rooney in the striker’s po­si­tion. We have Ad­nan Januzaj who played in the USA pre-sea­son in the striker’s po­si­tion.

“I have given him that chance and he has shown he can do that. We have Javier Her­nan­dez and James Wil­son, so I don’t think we have a lack of strik­ers.”

Van Gaal re­stored Januzaj to the start­ing line-up against Villa last Fri­day, but re­sponded to claims that he un­der­used the Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional last sea­son fol­low­ing the 20-year-old’s im­pres­sive break­through un­der Moyes.

“Ad­nan has eight starts last sea­son and 13 sub­sti­tu­tions so he didn’t have any chances? This is not true, in my opin­ion,” ex­plained the 64-year-old.

“He has to com­pete with 23 or 24 other play­ers. The char­ac­ter­is­tics of a young player is he is not con­sis­tent. He has to show that.

“Maybe he can show it this sea­son. It is pos­si­ble. In a club like Manch­ester United never you have a guar­an­tee of a po­si­tion in the top 11.”

Januzaj has been linked with sea­son-long loan moves to Sun­der­land and Ever­ton, but in­sists he is happy at Old Traf­ford and has a good re­la­tion­ship with Van Gaal.

“I am happy at Manch­ester United and I am happy the way the man­ager worked with me so I don’t have any is­sues with that,” added the winger.

“The man­ager spoke to me a few times and I can feel I am de­vel­op­ing my­self. I have not had a lot of games but this sea­son maybe I get a few more op­por­tu­ni­ties to play.”

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