Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes the
four English clubs can all progress from the UEFA
Champions League group stage – although the boss
admits the physicality of the Barclays Premier League
might affect performance in Europe’s premier
The Reds suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss at PSV
Eindhoven in the opening Group B match earlier this
month and hope to bounce back by defeating
Wolfsburg at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
It was well documented that City also lost their first
pool match to Italian side Juventus at the Etihad
Stadium before Arsenal were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by
Dinamo Zagreb, with Chelsea being the only English
side to triumph on matchday one following their 4-0
home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s big game against the
Bundesliga club, Wolfsburg, van Gaal assessed why
the famed competitiveness of the Premier League could
prove to be disadvantageous in Europe and also
explained why squad rotation is perhaps the key to
“The Premier League is a very difficult league,” he said.
“To beat your opponent every week is not easy, it is
always a struggle and a battle. Then you have to play
again mid-week in the Champions League and that is
the difference between all the clubs in Europe. It is not
predictable to say four teams in the Premier League
shall overcome this group stage round, no, it is not
like that. But I have to say that we have the teams to
do it and we have the quality to do it.
“The difficulty is that all these players are in a rat race
and that takes a lot out of the players, which is why
you have to rotate and that is what I am doing now
because I have to protect my players. I am unlucky
because I have only one position that is not doubled
and that is the position from Luke Shaw, but I had a
double because I had Blind and I had Rojo. But now
who is injured? Rojo!
“Rojo has not played so much. He has trained for three
or four weeks very hard, then he played for Argentina
for 70 minutes, 50 minutes against Swansea City and
then 70 minutes in the last match at Southampton. It
was a very good building up but he is injured; that is
unlucky. We can solve the problem with other players
but not a specialist like Shaw. Blind is not the
specialist. Rojo is more of a specialist because he
plays that position for Argentina, which is why he
played the last time there. The left full-back position
demands more of the capacity of a player.
“I say we have to play Sunday-Tuesday, Sunday-
Wednesday, so between the matches we cannot
recover all of the tiredness. Then we have to play
against a European squad who is willing to give
everything against us. They don’t have a rat race in
their competition and that is the difference.”
Wolfsburg arguably lost their best player, Kevin De
Bruyne, when he was sold to Manchester City in the
summer but the German club spent big on his
replacement by signing Julian Draxler from Schalke on
transfer deadline day. Van Gaal knows the player well
and acknowledges his ability.
“He was a very young talent when I was there [in
Germany, managing Bayern], so I know him,” the Reds
boss said. “He has to go on a long road like [Anthony]
Martial, although it could be a little bit shorter because
he has been playing longer on that level. He is a very
good player.”
Like many football fans, van Gaal was also impressed
when Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski
scored five goals in nine minutes during a 5-1 win
over Wolfsburg in midweek.
“Of course I saw, but I see also the first half and
Wolfsburg were very strong. It is unbelievable that it
happens in nine minutes. I have seen it when I was at
Barcelona and we play Valencia and we lost 3-4
having been leading 3-0, but that was in 15 minutes.
A little bit less than the five in nine minutes!”


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