Louis van Gaal has challenged his Manchester United squad to bounce back like champions ahead of Saturday’s Premier League meeting with Everton at Goodison Park. United went into their last outing ahead of the international break top of the Premier League table, but suffered a chastening 3-0 loss to Arsenal. And Van Gaal has insisted that everyone at the Old Trafford must take responsibility to improve if they are to fulfill the objective of returning the club to glory.
“We are always evaluating ourselves and we cannot accept that,” Van Gaal told reports at his pre-match press conference. “Not I cannot accept, we. Not only the members of the staff, but also the players cannot and we cannot accept that from each other because we want to be the champion -- so you have to behave like a champion. And also to improve yourself to be the champion in the future. You have to improve every time.”
Manchester United still sit third in the Premier League table, behind Arsenal on goal difference, and two points adrift of Manchester City. But Van Gaal has admitted that there is no guarantee of United returning to form on Saturday, especially considering that the club has lost on their last three visits to Goodison Park.
“It is also dependent on the opponent [whether United can avoid a similar defeat to that against Arsenal],” he said. “And arsenal was a very good opponent. And Everton is also for us a difficult opponent. Of course I am confident, because I see the training sessions, I see the reaction of my players. But you cannot be sure that it will be the result that you want.”
Indeed, United’s record at Goodison Park stretches to just one win in their last six trips. But Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists he is paying little attention to the past heading into Saturday’s matchup.
“The records and the previous performances and results mean very little,” he said at his press conference. “I think what important is that we respect immensely this Manchester United side. I think a couple of weeks back when they took top spot in the league, in a way that was a real statement of intent from their point of view.
“We’ve got again a really top team coming to Goodison. But from our point of view we want to perform well and perform as good as we can to try to get a win which is the target that we need to have.”
It has been a testing start to the season on home soil for Everton. Already Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have visited Goodison Park, yet only the league leaders emerged with all three points, in what is still Everton’s solitary defeat in 10 matches in all competitions this season. Meanwhile, Chelsea were handily dispatched 3-1, and a 1-1 draw in the Merseyside derby last time out proved to be the end of Brendan Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool.
From that result, Everton will now also be able to welcome back defenders Seamus Coleman and John Stones into the squad after the pair regained fitness over the international break. Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar, Tom Cleverley and Muhamed Besic have all made progress in their recovery, according to Martinez, but won’t be in contention for Saturday.
For Manchester United, Wayne Rooney has recovered from an ankle injury to be able to take the field against his former club, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick also look to have shaken off knocks. Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera will be back in contention, but Ashley Young and Paddy McNair, along with long-term casualty Luke Shaw, are ruled out.
Kickoff time: 10 a.m. EDT
TV channel NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra