Manchester United’s quest to extend their perfect start to the season at home to Newcastle United on Saturday has been overshadowed by rumored transfer target Pedro signing for rivals Chelsea. The Barcelona winger was thought to be on his way to Old Trafford this week, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward even said to have been in the Catalan capital to finalize a fee. Yet on Thursday he completed a move to Stamford Bridge, raising doubts over Woodward’s ability to get deals done. Van Gaal, though, has suggested that the reporting of the situation has been wide of the mark.
“When we wanted Pedro it was not any problem because there was a clause in his contract so it was an easy transfer,” he said at his press conference on Friday. “You can write what you want but we cannot say what we want, that is the difference. I have the responsibility of the protecting the interests of the club, of my players and I cannot say too much.”
The failure to land Porto has come amid doubts over whether Manchester United have the required quality and depth in attack to realize their lofty ambitions this season. But Van Gaal insisted he was happy to end the transfer window with his current squad and that he had full faith in Woodward.
While there have just been two goals in their two Premier League matches so far, the team has started with back-to-back wins. And on Tuesday Manchester United also took a step closer to the group stage of the Champions League, when Memphis Depay starred with two goals and an assist in a 3-1 win over Club Brugge in the first leg of their playoff at Old Trafford.
The contest was the third in a row in which another of the club’s summer arrivals, Bastian Schweinsteiger, came off the bench to add some veteran assurance to the team. And the German World Cup winner could now be in line for his first start on Saturday, likely in place of the man he came on for on Tuesday, Michael Carrick.
“It’s a matter of time,” he told MUTV when asked whether Schweinsteiger was ready to start. “Maybe it shall happen tomorrow. You never know. I think he can still do better because when you are not fit enough then it is difficult to show your highest level. But I think it’s also a matter of time and we have seen a solution in rotating our [second] captain, Michael Carrick, with Schweinsteiger. I think it’s a very good solution because we can spare them both for the big moments.”
It is Depay, though, that Newcastle manager Steve McClaren has singled out as a threat at Old Trafford on Saturday. McClaren, who took over at St James’ Park in the summer, is well aware of the Dutch starlet’s talent from his time coaching in the Netherlands at FC Twente.
“I've seen him play many times in Holland when I was there and he's a very good player,” he said, according to Newcastle United’s official website. “What is good about him as a winger is that he's got an end product and unfortunately for us, he's beginning to show that at Manchester United. That's why he's cost so much, because a lot of wingers these days don't have an end product. But he does and that's why we'll have to be wary of him.”
McClaren’s team have already had their problems with tricky left wingers this season, with Swansea City’s Jefferson Montero tormenting Daryl Janmaat in Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat last week. After earning two yellow cards for fouls on the Ecuadorian, Janmaat will now miss the trip to Old Trafford. On a more positive note, Newcastle could be boosted by the presence of new signing Florian Thauvin. The winger signed from Marseille for £12 million this week to continue Newcastle’s active transfer window, and is fit and available to go straight into the squad at Old Trafford.
Kickoff time: 7:45 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra