Louis van Gaal casts doubt on United hopes

Louis van Gaal may have spent over £250m (€341m) since he took over at Manchester United, but he still does not know whether his squad is capable of being a major force in the Champions League.

Van Gaal took his spending past the landmark two weeks ago when he signed Anthony Martial from Monaco for a fee that could rise to £58m (€79m).

Over £150m (€204.5m) was spent on six players last season as Van Gaal looked to get United back into the Champions League. Having achieved that, he now has the task of trying to take United far in the competition.

United have been handed a relatively easy group, but on the eve of their group match in Eindhoven against PSV, the 64-year-old admitted he was venturing into the unknown with his team.

“We have to show on the pitch if we are able to win matches on the highest level. That’s also a challenge for us now. Last year we were fourth in the Premier League.

“We qualified ourselves this year and that was our aim so now we have to show if we are able to play at that level and that I don’t know, neither. I have to wait and see.

“I think the Champions League is a higher podium than the Premier League but maybe it’s not like that.”

If Martial continues his current ratio of one goal per 25 minutes, his fee will look a bargain. The 19-year-old Frenchman stepped off the bench to score a stunning goal on debut in the 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday.

With Wayne Rooney still out through injury, Van Gaal has come under pressure from supporters to hand Martial his full debut against his former employers tonight, but the Dutchman looks more likely to keep him on the bench.

The United boss is concerned about placing too much pressure on Martial so he is trying to do everything he can to play down expectations on a player who only made his Ligue 1 debut 22 months ago.

For his part, Depay will not temper his celebration if he scores against his old club tonight.

The Dutchman spent nine years at the club, rising through the youth ranks before becoming a first-team star. PSV holds a special place in the 21-year-old’s heart, but that will not stop him from celebrating with all his might if he finds the net in Eindhoven.

“For me it’s a game, so if I score I will celebrate,” the United forward said.

“I have respect for PSV but I am a Manchester United player now.”

Depay earned a reputation as something of a hot head at times during his time in Holland, but he did not lash out at Van Gaal for taking him off at half-time against Liverpool.

“I think my reaction was good,” he said. “I will improve in training, keep my head up and work on it and I think I can do better in games.”

PSV coach Phillip Cocu is convinced Depay will be a success at Old Trafford.

United beat a host of Europe’s top clubs to Depay’s signature in May, but he is yet to score in the Barclays Premier League.

Cocu got the best out of Depay at PSV last year, where he scored 22 league goals for the club, and he is sure the forward will find his touch in front of goal for his new team soon.

“It’s normal you need some time to grow, you need a lot of games,” the PSV boss. “Physically he’s very strong and he’s a quick learner also. And I’m sure when he gets some time he’ll get it very fast. He will bring goals...

He will have some ups and downs. I’m sure when he’s been playing a few months, I’m convinced he’ll get better and better.”


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