Louis van Gaal thinks Sergio Romero has yet to prove he is capable of dealing with the rigours of Premier League football.
Manchester United signed goalkeeper Romero just 12 days before the season began when Van Gaal decided David de Gea’s focus had been distracted because of Real Madrid’s interest in him.
Former United keeper Peter Schmeichel yesterday branded it “an absolute joke” that United did not sort out the future of De Gea before the start of the season.
Yet despite Romero’s late arrival, which came three weeks after leading Argentina to the Copa America final, he has yet to concede a goal from an opposition player in his first five matches.
The only person to beat him so far is Michael Carrick, who accidentally shinned the ball into his own net during United’s 3-1 win over Club Brugge at Old Trafford last week.
But United manager Van Gaal says the jury is still out on whether Romero is strong enough to handle the rougher side of the English top-flight.
When asked if he had seen enough of Romero to know whether he was up to the physical challenge of the Premier League, Van Gaal said: “I don’t think so.
“Because until now we don’t allow a lot of shots or moments in our 16-metre area.
“I think he did very good saves but until now I think only maybe the save in Brugge at 1-0 was very important and he did also a save against Tottenham.
“So he could not show what he can show, I think, but that is only a compliment for the team.”
That said, Van Gaal had little hesitation in recruiting the Argentinian, with whom he worked at AZ Alkmaar, when it became apparent to him De Gea had lost focus.
“We wouldn’t have bought him otherwise,” Van Gaal added.
The Dutchman still felt it necessary to put the free transfer signing through a series of intensive tests before the campaign began so he could make a well-informed judgment on whether to opt for the 28-year-old former Sampdoria stopper or rookie Sam Johnstone. “The difficulty was the co-operation between the new players and him,” Van Gaal said of Romero’s first days at the club. “We wouldn’t have bought him otherwise,” Van Gaal added.
“The difficulty was the co-operation between the new players and him,” Van Gaal said of Romero’s first days at the club.
“We have had special training sessions with him. Not only with him and the goalkeeping coach (Frans Hoek) but also the players.
“We have given a lot of attention to that and because of that we could overcome that.”
Van Gaal’s defensive record in the Premier League may be a source of pride, but at the other end of the pitch it is a different story.
United only beat Tottenham on the opening day of the season thanks to Kyle Walker’s own goal, and Adnan Januzaj’s winner against Aston Villa was somewhat fortunate.
Further fears were raised when United registered a goalless draw against Newcastle last weekend, but on Wednesday Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory over Club Brugge.
The triple strike ended Rooney’s 10-match goalless run, but he rejected an opportunity to add a fourth from the penalty spot by handing the ball to Javier Hernandez, who shot wide from 12 yards and then missed an open goal at the death.
Hernandez, like Rooney, will have to learn how to deal with the pressure and silence his critics.
“Every player who plays for Manchester United has to cope with that pressure,” Van Gaal said when asked about the Mexican.
“It is like you (the media) have written down Wayne Rooney until the ground and now he has scored three goals and he is again God.”
Juan Mata, who was off the pitch when United won the penalty in Belgium, is expected to return to penalty-taking duties if required in Sunday’s match at Swansea. Januzaj is out because of an injury around his hip area.
Swansea manager Garry Monk expects United to be title contenders this season.
“They can win it with the squad they’ve got after the amount of money they’ve spent,” Monk said. “With the quality they have, they should be competing for the title.”
West Brom have agreed a fee with United for defender Jonny Evans. The 27-year-old Northern Ireland international will now hold talks with the Baggies ahead of ending his nine-year stay at Old Trafford. A move was made for Evans after Spurs centre-back Federico Fazio failed to agree a contract to move to The Hawthorns after a day of talks last week. The deal will cost the Baggies an initial £6m (€8.2m) rising to £8m (€11m) with add-ons.
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