Louis van Gaal appreciates Sir Alex Ferguson’s praise, but admits he will always be under pressure to match the Scot’s achievements at Manchester United.
Van Gaal has been charged with the task of rebuilding United following the failed reign of David Moyes, who Ferguson chose to succeed him after 26 successful years at the helm.
Ferguson, who won 38 trophies during his tenure at the club, lavished praise on Van Gaal this week, saying: “He’s a great coach, he will do well… when he gets the best players back, you watch United go.”
While Van Gaal, who has won leagues in Spain, Holland and Germany, appreciates the endorsement of a man held in the highest regard by United fans, he concedes such words put him under pressure to deliver.
“It’s fantastic,” Van Gaal said when asked about Ferguson’s praise. “When you come here, you hope – because I know Sir Alex – that he shall support you. And this week is not the first time he has showed a lot of confidence and belief in me, and that I need as trainer-coach. As manager of Manchester United you need belief and support of managers such as Sir Alex but also [directors] Bobby Charlton and David Gill.
“They have the belief and I’m happy with that, then you can work in an easier way. But it is also a pressure because he believes in you and it gives you that pressure that you have to get results. It is not so easy to win Premier League matches.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Van Gaal has started to live up to his star billing in recent weeks, taking United on a run of six wins from seven matches.
The Dutchman was in a good mood as he addressed the media for the final time before Christmas yesterday. The 63-year-old shared a bottle of wine with reporters at the club’s training centre, and spoke positively about the run of form which has lifted the Red Devils into third.
United’s home form has been key. If they beat Newcastle on Boxing Day they will have won eight matches at Old Trafford – one less than they achieved for the whole of last season. “I said when we came back from the [pre-season tour of the] United States we wanted to build a fortress at Old Trafford so it was a pity we lost against Swansea,” said Van Gaal, reflecting on United’s only home defeat on the opening day of the season.
“We want to build a fortress at Old Trafford, but we have made it that already because we have won a lot, and also with great results like 3-0 [against Hull] and 4-0 [versus QPR]. I’m happy with that, but then we have to continue.”
The omens look good for United. They have won 19 of their 22 matches on Boxing Day since the Premier League began.
“Yes, I have read that,” Van Gaal said with a smile.
The Dutchman’s face straightened when he was asked about speculation United were set to launch a world-record bid to sign Real Madrid star Gareth Bale next summer. “I cannot discuss that with you,” Van Gaal said. “I discuss that with my CEO [chief executive Ed Woodward] and not with anyone of the media.”
Van Gaal remains without injured trio Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind while Marouane Fellaini is unavailable due to illness.
Chris Smalling has an outside chance of playing against Newcastle, but Marcos Rojo is unlikely to feature due to a thigh problem. Wayne Rooney looks set to continue in the central midfield role he has occupied recently.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS