|Louis van Gaal
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has warned Louis van Gaal he faces a battle to deliver instant success at Manchester United after claiming the Dutchman will be “surprised” by the intensity of the Premier League.
Van Gaal’s United struck a pre-season psychological blow on their bitter rivals by fighting back from a goal down to win 3-1 in the International Champions Cup final in Miami. But with Van Gaal inheriting a squad who finished seventh at the end of David Moyes’s disastrous campaign as manager, United still have to bridge a gap with the likes of Liverpool and champions Manchester City.
United’s tour performances, which culminated in their victory over Liverpool in front of more than 51,000 spectators in Miami, bolstered the optimism at Old Trafford that the club can bounce back from last season. But Rodgers claims that Van Gaal’s illustrious track record will count for little when the Premier League season begins next week.
“I think the competition will probably take him by surprise, and that’s from foreign managers I have spoken to over the years,” Rodgers said. “I’ve worked closely with foreign players who have come in, and that real physical competitive nature will be different to anywhere else he’s worked before. I think what he’ll find is the competition in this league will be different to any other league that he’s worked in.
“In a lot of the other leagues, there are one or two teams and those are the teams that are expected to win. But this is a league where the top team plays the bottom team and on any given day you can lose. You don’t get that a lot in the other leagues.”
Goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard secured victory for United in Miami following Steven Gerrard’s penalty opener.
Despite spelling out the obstacles Van Gaal must overcome in English football, Rodgers admits he has huge respect for the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach. And he believes the 62-year-old will succeed where Moyes failed by making United competitive again.
“I’ve obviously been an admirer of his work and his career,” Rodgers said. “He’s a very experienced manager and a very good manager who has worked at some big clubs.
“When you come through as a coach, you look at the guys who have a vision and a philosophy, and he was obviously one of those guys. I admire his work but I wouldn’t say I know him.
“I think for United it will be a totally different mindset. Domestically, for the last 20 years, they’ve been champions 13 times. So the players there will want to do better for themselves. They will be disappointed with where they finished last year, of course, and with the quality they have, they will want to push on.”
Rodgers, who says Liverpool’s priority this season is to regain Champions League, voiced his sympathy for Van Gaal’s predecessor Moyes by claiming the Scot would be able to rebuild his reputation.
The former Everton manager was given just 11 months at United after being handed a six-year contract. And Rodgers claims his working relationship with Liverpool’s American owners is something that Moyes was unable to count upon at United. “You can’t go from what he was for 10 years in the Premier League being a top manager, winning big games, and running a big club like Everton, to then be judged on the period at Manchester United. I feel bad for him,” Rodgers said.