Sunday 8 December 2019

Van Gaal vows to end defenders' injury nightmare

Jonny Evans is one of three Manchester United defenders injured. Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images
Jonny Evans is one of three Manchester United defenders injured. Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Louis Van Gaal claims that Manchester United's injury-prone defenders will overcome their recurring fitness nightmare by following the same path which led to Arjen Robben reviving his faltering career at Bayern Munich.

Van Gaal goes into today's Old Trafford clash against West Ham with just one fit centre-half - Marcos Rojo - because Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are injured, with Tyler Blackett ruled out by suspension.

Despite the club citing physiological data during the summer which suggested Jones, Evans and Smalling would avoid the injury problems of recent seasons, all three are again out with hamstring, ankle and thigh problems respectively.

The three centre-halves have seen their progress at United stalled by repeated injuries, raising concerns over their ability to produce a sustained run of games in the first team.

But after helping Dutch winger Robben banish the injury problems that had plagued his career prior to signing for Bayern in 2009, Van Gaal insists that Jones, Smalling and Evans can make the same journey at United.

"I have been told about their injury records and now they are confirming that," Van Gaal said.

"But I have good hopes that we shall improve in that matter because normally I don't have any injuries.

"As a good example, for a player who was many times injured, Robben was never injured in my season. How do make that happen? By training sessions and adapting to the level I require.

"It was not only Robben, but every player, and we are doing that here in the same way, only less than I have done with Bayern Munich. We have to improve the level and intensity so the players can play the game.


"Do I expect those methods to work here? Yes, of course. I am 25 years in this profession and you learn every year.

"You gain a philosophy in all those years and then you apply that."

The fragility of Jones, Evans and Smalling has added to the criticism of United's failure to recruit a seasoned, experienced centre-half during a summer in which they spent £153m on new signings.

However, despite losing almost 1,100 games' worth of combined defensive experience following the summer departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, Van Gaal insisted: "My concern is never the age or the experience.

"My concern is the profile and you have to fit in the profile. I don't want to buy players who don't fit into the profile.

"Age is not so important. I played with the Dutch national team at the World Cup, with Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij - both 22.

"Neither had ever played in the Premier League or abroad. Now they are abroad because of the World Cup, and I played with Ron Vlaar and he plays with Aston Villa.

"That was my defence and we did it very well at the World Cup and until Leicester we had conceded only three goals in spite of the fact that we were not playing so well.

"Our defensive organisation was very good, but now you want to make everything negative and that's not true." © The Daily Telegraph, London)

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