Louis van Gaal has claimed he is unsure if his Manchester United side are capable of competing with the best teams in Europe. Van Gaal will lead the English giants into a Champions League game for the first time on Tuesday, as they begin the group phase away at Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. United finished fourth in the Premier League last year before coming through a playoff against Club Brugge to earn a return to Europe’s premier competition after a year’s absence. But Van Gaal has suggested that Champions League presents a stiffer challenge.
“We have to show on the pitch if we are able to win matches on the highest level,” he said in his pre-match press conference at the Phillips Stadion, reports Reuters. “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, either. 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.”
The three-time European champions will come into the match on a real high. After an uninspiring start to the season, United put in an improved second-half showing on Saturday to beat fierce rivals Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford. The victory featured a first appearance of the season for David de Gea after the Spanish goalkeeper’s transfer to Real Madrid fell through and he signed a new contract with United. It also included an eye-catching debut goal from the man who just two weeks ago became the world’s most expensive teenager -- Anthony Martial.
Van Gaal wouldn’t disclose whether the French 19-year-old would make his first start for the club on Tuesday, although Wayne Rooney is again ruled out with a hamstring injury. Likely to feature, though, is a young forward who will be in familiar surroundings in Eindhoven. Memphis Depay was the top scorer for in the Eredivisie last season to fire PSV to the title and their first appearance in the Champions League group stage in seven years.
But modern economic realities mean their title-winning squad has already been torn apart, with not only Depay but their captain of last season, Georginio Wijnaldum, departing. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it was a fairly slow start to the season for the champions, although they have picked up with a victory over Feyenoord and a 6-0 thumping of Cambuur in their last two matches. And coach Phillip Cocu, a former player under Van Gaal at Barcelona and for the Netherlands, is not intimidated by the task of facing Manchester United.
“We have European experience [from the UEFA Europa League] and will get more by playing matches at this level,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “Everybody is looking forward to this game. It is prestigious and the stakes are high -- it is important.
“United have a lot of individual quality, they are experienced and they are a top football team. You can see the hand of Louis van Gaal. Our intention is to go for the win, but we will not be naive. Our initial aim, however, is to try to win.”
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1