Monday 18 December 2017

Van Gaal: I have a great history with Club Brugge - It will be an interesting tie

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal

Paul Hirst and Phil Blanche

Louis van Gaal is looking forward to a reunion with old foe Club Brugge after Manchester United were pitted against the Belgian side in the Champions League playoff.

United avoided a potentially tricky tie against European heavyweights Monaco and Lazio on Friday morning when they were drawn against Club Brugge in the play-off draw in Nyon.

If United beat the runners-up from the Belgian league over two legs, they will enter the group stages after a one-year absence from the competition.

It will be United's first meeting with Club Brugge, but Van Gaal knows the opposition well.

Read more: Manchester United have been handed a very kind Champions League draw

The United manager took on the Belgian club during his second spell as Barcelona boss in 2002.

Barca beat Club Brugge twice in the group stages that year, and although he believes United's opponents will be harder than many expect, Van Gaal is still hopeful of qualifying for the group stages.

"The club and myself have great history in the Champions League and although it is not ideal to have to qualify, we are looking forward to the challenge ahead against Club Brugge," the United manager told the club's website.

"This is the first time the two clubs have played against each other.

Read more: Angel di Maria apologises to Manchester United fans in open letter

"It will be an interesting tie, Club Brugge are a good side, they reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League and finished second in the Belgian League last season."

Van Gaal's history with Belgian football stretches way further back than his meeting with Club Brugge in the Champions League, though.

The former Bayern Munich coach, who turns 64 on Saturday, claims he made his playing debut for Antwerp in the 1970s, but reports in Belgium dispute this.

"It will be nice to go back to Belgium, I have good memories of my time playing there for Antwerp," said Van Gaal, who played for Antwerp for four years.

Read more: David de Gea looks certain to leave Manchester United as Van Gaal confirms he will not play against Spurs

"In fact my debut for Antwerp was against Club Brugge and during my time as manager at Barcelona we played them in the group stages.

"Over two legs we have to be confident against any team, we are determined to progress in the competition."

United will host Club Brugge on August 18 before travelling to Belgium for the return leg eight days later.

Other standout ties from the play-off draw include Lazio taking on Bayer Leverkusen and Valencia facing Monaco.

Celtic, meanwhile, were drawn against Swedish champions Malmo.

The Scottish champions avoided potential nightmare trips to Kazakhstan or Albania after beating Qarabag, of Azerbaijan, in the third qualifying round.

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But Malmo, European Cup finalists in 1979, have plenty of pedigree and have won the Swedish title in the last two seasons.

Malmo overturned a 2-0 deficit from their away leg with Red Bull Salzburg to win 3-2 on aggregate and have former Celtic player Jo Inge Berget in their ranks.

Press Association

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