Saturday 21 July 2018

Louis van Gaal: I do not know if we are good enough for Europe

Louis van Gaal has a poor record away to PSV Eindhoven
Louis van Gaal has a poor record away to PSV Eindhoven

Mark Ogden

Louis van Gaal restores Manchester United to the Champions League tonight admitting that he does not know whether his team is good enough to challenge Europe's elite.

Having missed out on European football last season following the disastrous reign of David Moyes during the 2013-14 campaign, United take on Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven in Group B after completing a 7-1 aggregate victory against Club Brugge in last month's two-legged play-off round.

Three-time European champions United are expected to progress to the knock-out stages of this season's Champions League after being paired with PSV, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow - both runners-up in their domestic leagues last term.

But despite spending in excess of £280m on new players, including former PSV winger Memphis Depay, since taking charge of United in July 2014, Van Gaal has claimed that he is yet to discover whether his team is equipped to compete with the cream of the Champions League.


"I think the fans shall see a Manchester United who fight for their chances, but we have to show on the pitch if we are able to win matches on the highest level," said Van Gaal. "That is a challenge for us now.

"Last year we were fourth in the Premier League and qualified ourselves for the Champions League, which was our aim.

"But now, we have to show if we are able to play at that level and that I don't know. I have to wait and see.

"I think the Champions League is a higher podium than the Premier League, but maybe it's not like that."

United face PSV in the Philips Stadion with captain Wayne Rooney still unavailable as a result of the hamstring injury which forced him to miss Saturday's 3-1 victory against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Rooney's absence is likely to enhance Depay's prospects of facing his former club, just four months after his £25m move to United was completed.

While the 21-year-old illuminated Old Trafford with two stunning goals in the 3-1 victory at home to Club Brugge last month, the Dutch winger has found the Premier League a more difficult stage on which to perform.

Having selected Depay to start in all seven of United's games so far this season, Van Gaal was understood to be considering resting the player against PSV, but Rooney's injury has diminished that prospect.

And although he says he is relishing a return to his old club, Depay admits that he is yet to find his best form in a United shirt.

"It's a new experience for me in the Premier League," Depay said.

"I have to improve and I know that. I learned so many things here at PSV, but like the boss (Van Gaal) says, the Premier League is a different level to the Eredivisie.

"The competition is different so I have to learn in the Premier League about things there.

"But myself and Anthony Martial are both young, so we can help each other and ask each other questions.

"It is the same with Luke Shaw and I speak to him also, because he has played a lot of games in the Premier League and he has more experience than I do." However, Phillip Cocu, Depay's coach at PSV, insists he will come good quickly at United.

"Sometimes it will be difficult in the beginning, but in a few months, he will get better and better," Cocu said. "He needs time to grow, like any new player, but he is very strong.

"He is also a quick learner, but he will get time and pick it up very fast." The road between PSV and United has been well-travelled, with Depay following the likes of Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ji-sung Park from Eindhoven to Manchester.

But despite his strong ties to the club, Depay insists he will have no qualms about celebrating if he scores for United tonight.

"I was here for 10 years, so it is a special feeling for me to come back," Depay said. "To play against them so soon will be very interesting for me.

"A lot of people have asked the question (if I will celebrate a goal,) but it is still a game for me and if I score, I will celebrate. "I am a Manchester United player now, but of course I have respect for PSV."

United Cocu's team having won just one of their last seven away games in the Champions League proper.

But while conceding that a draw would be a good result, Van Gaal insists his team will play to win - if only to improve his miserable record against PSV.

"A draw away is always a good result in my opinion, but to win the first match is very important," Van Gaal said. "For me, though, this is a difficult place.

"I didn't win so much here, it is a difficult ground. When I was Barcelona manager I didn't win here and with Ajax I didn't win so much. I won here with AZ, though.

"Although I managed Ajax, I was also the national coach and when I came here, the people were very nice and they want a picture with me, so I don't think that is bad."

PSV Eindhoven v Man United, Live BT Sport & TV3, 7.45

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