Winless after 3 games, including cup rout, Van Gaal needs upturn in United fortunes at Burnley
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 06:30 pm
LONDON - From the World Cup semifinals to a bruising introduction in Britain, Louis van Gaal's fortunes have changed rapidly inside two months.
The coach who led the Netherlands to a third-place finish at the World Cup enters his fourth match as Manchester United manager still searching for his first win.
After a loss and a draw in his opening Premier League games came the humiliating defeat at third-tier club MK Dons in the League Cup on Tuesday. Next up is a trip to Premier League newcomer Burnley on Saturday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's matches:
If Van Gaal is to improve on the seventh-place finish under David Moyes, United's fortunes will need to improve quickly.
Van Gaal points to United's 10 injuries, with off-season recruit Anders Herrara joining the casualty list. But after spending a British record 59.7 million pounds ($99 million) this week for Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, the Argentina forward will be expected to lead United's upturn, starting at Burnley on Saturday.
"He should indeed be a player who the fans should enjoy," Van Gaal said Thursday.
But the problems seem to be in defence, with MK Dons finding space too easily against a second-string United to score four times.
Van Gaal disagrees.
"Our problem is when we have the ball and we have to build up the play and that we have to play," the Dutchman said. "I don't think our defence is weak. Our buildup is still not good enough and we will improve that but it needs time."
ARSENAL STRIKER SHORTAGE
The season is only two weeks old and already Arsenal is short of centre forward options.
The relief for Arsene Wenger after picking up four points from the first two league games is that qualification for the group stage of the Champions League was secured on Wednesday.
Wenger maintains there will be no panic purchase to fill the void left by Olivier Giroud being ruled out until at least the end of December with a broken tibia. Wenger's immediate striking options on Sunday at Leicester are Lukas Podolski, newcomer Alexis Sanchez, who is more accustomed to playing on the wing, and the inexperienced Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell.
"Who will we buy?" Wenger said after Wednesday's victory over Besiktas. "I give you straight away the answer — nobody."
Perhaps Leicester's need to strengthen is more pressing, having just gained promotion after a decade away. The central England club has collected one point from its opening two games.
"We need more depth, and we'll try and do that," Leicester manager Nigel Pearson said.
With two league wins out of two, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has made the perfect start to life in one of the most insecure club jobs in football.
A slender win over West Ham followed by an entertaining rout of Queens Park Rangers provide a springboard to challenge for the fop-four again, but just how convincing that proposition is should become clearer against Liverpool on Sunday.
Mario Balotelli could make his Liverpool debut up front at White Hart Lane. Last season's runners-up have looked less threatening since Luis Suarez left for Barcelona, opening with a narrow victory over Southampton before being outplayed in a loss at Manchester City.
"(Tottenham) started the season really well, have a new manager and have their confidence and belief back," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said.
It's been a week of homecomings at Crystal Palace.
Four years after leaving, Neil Warnock was re-hired to manage a team in disarray after the sudden pre-season departure of Tony Pulis.
Now winger Wilfried Zaha is joining on a season-long loan from Manchester United, where his career has floundered since moving from Selhurst Park in January 2013.
"It's a great club, but since I've gone up there it hasn't gone my way really," Zaha said of United. "I haven't really had the chance to showcase my talent or play much - that's why I thought it would be best for me to get a loan, gain some experience and maybe go back a better player."