herald

Friday 18 January 2019

'i'll make room for top stars'

Van Gaal has a plan to fit in stellar cast for Theatre of Dreams drama

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insists he will have no problem making room for his stellar cast of new arrivals.

Van Gaal is looking to finally, at the fifth time of asking, record his first win as United boss tomorrow when QPR come to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal is expected to hand Radamel Falcao, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo their debuts while Angel di Maria should make his first appearance at Old Trafford alongside £29million summer signing Ander Herrera.

How, exactly, Van Gaal plans to fit £150million-worth of talent into his first-team has been the subject of much debate since Falcao jetted into Manchester on deadline day to seal the most eye-catching move of the window.

prospect

But Van Gaal, who may have to drop the likes of Juan Mata and Robin van Persie at times this year, is not fazed by the prospect of trying to fit all his stars into his team.

"I don't have any worries about that because I have done that already - for more than 25 years," said Van Gaal when asked how he would "accommodate" his six new signings.

"I'm a coach who always decides what he sees and has observed and then decides."

Van Gaal, who said the club had done "very good" in the window, has seen his selections worries ease due to a host of injuries.

Such is the injury crisis at United that Van Gaal has had to make a list of all his unavailable players to keep track.

He produced that list at his pre-match press conference yesterday afternoon. Peering through the lenses of his thick-rimmed reading glasses, which he produced from his pocket alongside the list, Van Gaal revealed he was without nine players for tomorrow's game.

Phil Jones would be out for between three weeks and a month with a torn hamstring, said Van Gaal, who also revealed Marouane Fellaini is out for at least a month due to his ankle injury.

Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, Sam Johnstone, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard, James Wilson and Reece James completed the list.

The good news for United fans is that Luke Shaw is available to make his first appearance for the Red Devils since his £28m move from Southampton.

The England left-back may be introduced off the bench though.

"Shaw is fit enough to play minutes but not the whole game. There is a difference," Van Gaal said.

After breaking the British transfer record two weeks ago, United fans turned up at Turf Moor with Argentina flags to greet £59.7m signing Di Maria.

The arrival of Falcao has only served to heighten the excitement among the United support, who are desperate for their team to finally record their first win under Van Gaal.

Van Gaal has warned it will take time for the Colombian and his fellow new signings to adapt to English football, though.

"What the fans expect and what I expect are different opinions," Van Gaal said.

"The fans shall expect a new start, of course, with these kind of players to fit (in) but I know as a trainer-coach, when you let 14 players go and buy six new players, you have 20 different relationships in the dressing room.

"The hierarchy has gone. Now we have to build up a new hierarchy and that always needs time. I'm sorry for that but it's like that."

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward made his expectations clear this week when he said, in a conference call with investors, that the club had budgeted for a top-three finish.

OPTIMISTIC

Despite picking up two points from nine in the league, and suffering a humbling League Cup thrashing at MK Dons, Van Gaal is optimistic he can reach that goal.

"I don't think it's an unreasonable target," Van Gaal said.

"That it shall be difficult? That is another question but a club such as Manchester United has to always have a target. Within the top three, I think is logical perhaps because Manchester United wants to be in the Champions League."

Meanwhile, Van Gaal thinks United should have no regrets about releasing Rio Ferdinand earlier this summer ahead of the veteran's return with QPR tomorrow.

Having also allowed Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra to leave the club, United have been left with a huge lack of experience in defence as a result.

Van Gaal was not in charge when the club decided against renewing Ferdinand's contract, but had he been at the helm, he would have gone down the same route.

When asked whether United should have kept Ferdinand, who spent 12 years at Old Trafford, Van Gaal said: "No. There is a time to stay and a time to go and Rio decided to go. He was a great player, maybe he is still a great player but there is always a time for a player to go from a club."

Ferdinand signed a one-year contract with QPR in July.

During his time at United, the centre-back won six Premier League titles, two League Cups and the Champions League.

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