Van Gaal blames 'evil' demands on Premier League decline
United boss blames lack of winter break for Euro failures
Louis van Gaal has claimed that the "evil" demands of English football are the root cause of the Premier League's decline as a Champions League powerhouse and England's ongoing failure on the international stage.
The Manchester United manager, whose team face Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday, fears it is now almost impossible for an English club to win the league and Champions League in the same season - as United did in 1999 and 2008 - due to the fixture schedule imposed on the leading clubs.
Having managed in Holland, Spain and Germany with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, where clubs competing in European competition are given special dispensation for favourable fixture scheduling close to Champions League or Europa League fixtures, Van Gaal has claimed that United go into Sunday's derby at a disadvantage having only returned from a midweek trip to Moscow yesterday afternoon.
But with the Premier League now the only major league in Europe to forego a winter break, Van Gaal believes that decision is the major factor in the failings of England and domestic clubs in European competition.
"There is no winter break and I think that is the most evil thing of this culture," Van Gaal said. "It is not good for English football, it is not good for the clubs or the national team and I think you should change it.
"England has not won anything for how many years? It is because all the players are exhausted at the end of the season."
Having achieved a Champions League-Eredivisie double with Ajax in 1995 before losing the 2010 Champions League final with Bayern after securing the Bundesliga title, Van Gaal has previously navigated a route through the both domestic and European competitions with club teams.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini insisted that the draining effects of an unbroken winter schedule last season contributed to his team's Champions League exit against Barcelona in the last 16.
And Van Gaal said that United, who consolidated second position in Group B with a 1-1 draw against CSKA Moscow in Russia on Wednesday, will find it hugely difficult to taste success in both the league and Champions League due to the competitive nature of the Premier League.
"It is always possible (to win the league and Champions League) and I have done that," Van Gaal said. "But I also lost when we were champions in Germany, before losing the Champions League final.
"It is harder these days. The Premier League is the most difficult league to win because of the high level of the teams and you cannot beat a team easily.
“Every team is a challenge. It is a rat race and then you have to play also in the European Cup.
“It is not so easy and that is why English teams over the last few years have not won the Champions League because of the difference in the leagues.”
With United absent from European competition last season for the first time in the Premier League era, Van Gaal’s team were forced to overcome a catalogue of injury problems before eventually securing a top-four finish and return to the Champions League.
But having reflected on his first season in English football, Van Gaal believes his squad is now better prepared to deal with the demands placed on it after rooting out those
Van Gaal: Last year’s injury list was my faultplayers who he felt struggled to cope with the physical aspect of the game in England.
The likes of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Rafael da Silva and Jonny Evans have all been dispensed with by Van Gaal and the Dutchman insists that the current group of players is now much better equipped to compete on all fronts.
“That (injury list) was my fault,” Van Gaal said. “I was training them harder, but they were not used to training like that.
“I am convinced that players have to train and now they are used to that (philosophy). I let go players because of that and I buy new players.
“I think they are more used to my training sessions.
“You can see that with the new players. You can see which players were always injured. In my career, I never had injuries like that, but you always have to train. I just do what the game is demanding.”
Having reshaped his squad in the summer for an assault on the Premier League and Champions League, Van Gaal believes he is now just one player short of his ideal pool of players.
“I believe in smaller squads because you need perspective,” Van Gaal said. “Otherwise, the motivation is a doubt. Last season we had 24 players, we sold 15 players and bought five players. This year we sold and loaned again, ten players and only six players we bought.
“I think 22 players and three goalkeepers is enough, so I am still one short.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)