Radamel Falcao declared his readiness to fire Manchester United to Champions League qualification this season on the day Louis van Gaal made it clear he felt Danny Welbeck was not good enough for the Red Devils.
United pulled off a headline-grabbing coup by recruiting prolific Colombia striker Falcao on transfer deadline day on a season-long loan from Monaco.
The 28-year-old missed the end of 2013/14 and the summer’s World Cup after sustaining a serious knee injury in January, but he has been back in action for the French club and his country this term, getting on the scoresheet for the former.
Talking at his and fellow deadline day recruit Daley Blind’s official United unveiling yesterday, Falcao moved to alleviate any fears over his physical condition.
And, 24 hours on from executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward saying the Old Trafford outfit are budgeting to come at least third in this campaign, the frontman also emphasised his confidence he can help them bounce back from finishing seventh last season with a return to the top four.
Asked about his fitness, Falcao – set, along with the versatile Blind, to make his debut in Sunday’s Barclays Premier League home clash with QPR – said: “I feel well. I started to play two months ago with Monaco and I have improved a lot.
“I have scored goals. I’m confident with my physical condition and I am comfortable with my knee. I think I won’t have a problem with adaptation.”
Regarding United not being in Europe, he said: “Every player wants to play in the Champions League, and this year it’s not possible for Manchester United. But we are confident we will be able to qualify for next season in the Champions League.’’
United have the option to buy Falcao after the loan ends and he appears keen to commit himself long-term to the club. “I think that Manchester United are building a big team for this season and the future and I would like to be here and be part of this project,” he said. “I hope to stay for many years and make history at this club.”
While Falcao was joining United on deadline day, Welbeck, a product of their youth academy, was moving to Arsenal for a reported £16 million.
The 23-year-old England forward – scorer of two goals for his country in this week’s Euro 2016 qualifying win in Switzerland – has netted 24 times in the last three seasons for the Red Devils since returning from a loan spell with Sunderland in 2010/11.
Van Gaal left no doubt that he thinks Welbeck is not up to scratch as he drew comparisons with United frontmen Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, as well as Falcao.
Van Gaal said of Welbeck: “After coming back from Sunderland, he played three seasons for Manchester United. But he doesn’t have the record of Van Persie or Rooney, and that is the standard. That is why we let him go – also because of Falcao, and the youngsters who can fit in.”
The decision to sell Welbeck, coupled with an outlay of around £150m on six new players over the summer, has prompted suggestions there is a changing culture at United, moving away from their tradition of youth development. Assistant manger Ryan Giggs has insisted United remain committed to giving youth a chance, though. Van Gaal echoed that sentiment and emphasised he has no worries about fitting players into a coherent system.
The Dutchman said: “We brought six players in and we let 14 players go. So fitting in these players is not so difficult, I think.
“Then, also, we need the youth education, and that is the policy of Manchester United. We give youth players a chance. The question is if they take the chance. I am always willing to give young players chances. The possibility is there, and all the youngsters have to know that.”
On Falcao, Van Gaal – who stressed he had not brought the player in due to any notion that Van Persie is a fading force – said: “I don’t have doubts because he is for me one of the best strikers in the world, and when you see his record it is unbelievable.
“Today in training he got one ball and it was in the goal. So he confirmed it in his first training session. But when I say this, I put too much pressure on him.”
Sunday’s game could also see United bows for summer arrivals Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw, and a first home appearance for another, Angel Di Maria, who the Red Devils – still without a win this season – paid a British record transfer fee for.