Louis van Gaal hits out at claims Liverpool vs Man United is devalued by Europa League
Louis van Gaal has denied claims that Manchester United's first ever European meeting with arch-rivals Liverpool has been devalued by being in the Europa League.
United travel to Anfield for the first leg of their last 16 meeting on Thursday, with the return at Old Trafford a week later.
The clubs have never met in European competition but Van Gaal does not agree with assertions that the games are not as meaningful because they are not in the Champions League.
"I noticed that you have a negative view [of the Europa League in England], but against teams like Midtjylland there were how many fans? 58,000," Van Gaal said, reflecting on United's last 32 match against the Danish minnows.
"The fans of Manchester United are appreciating it. How many fans do you think we’ll have against Liverpool [at Old Trafford]? I think maybe 75,000.
"I think also Anfield is sold out, so that’s what I have to say, it’s very important for both teams and the fans want to see the duel between us."
“I think football in England is very deep in the life of the people, of course I have noticed that also in Spain and Germany but that was less deep than here.
"It’s fantastic to see that, that’s also one aspect why I wanted to come here, to have that experience. It is also sometimes what I can see too much, but I like to see it because you can see the heart of the club and also the feeling that they are with you every game. It’s nice for the players and for the manager.
"You have to win - there is no difference [with it being a cup competition]. United and Liverpool is always a big game. It's historical and even bigger now because both teams are fighting for a Champions League place."
Van Gaal had positive news on United's injuries, as he expects players such as Antonio Valencia and Bastian Schweinsteiger to return this month.
"Valencia is coming back and Schweinsteiger is coming back. I think a lot of players shall come back in the month of March," he added.
"When they come back it's not so easy to decide if they can cope with the rhythm of the matches though. Bastian has had only one training session with us, Valencia has had a week - he is closer to being on the bench for example but not to play a match, that's different."