Louis van Gaal may have spent over £250 million (Dh1.4bn) since he took over at Manchester United, but he still does not know whether his squad is capable of being a major force in the Champions League.
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Van Gaal took his spending past the quarter of a billion pound mark two weeks ago when he signed Anthony Martial from Monaco for a fee that could rise to £58m (Dh329m). Over £150m (Dh850m) was spent on six players last season as Van Gaal looked to get United back into the Champions League.
Having achieved that goal, Van Gaal now has the task of trying to take United far in the competition. United have been handed a relatively easy group, but on the eve of their group match in Eindhoven against PSV, the 64-year-old admitted he was venturing into the unknown with his team.
“We have to show on the pitch if we are able to win matches on the highest level,” the United manager said.
“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 I don’t know about that. 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.”
If Martial continues his current ratio of one goal per 25 minutes, £58m will look a bargain. The 19-year-old Frenchman stepped off the bench to score a stunning goal on debut in the 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday.
With Wayne Rooney still out through injury, Van Gaal has come under pressure from supporters to hand Martial his full debut at the Philips Stadion tonight, but the Dutchman looks more likely to keep his young star on the bench.
The United boss is concerned about placing too much pressure on Martial so he is trying to do everything he can to play down expectations on a player who only made his Ligue 1 debut 22 months ago. “His impression is good,” Van Gaal added.
“But you have to give him time and that is what the fans need to do. Because, he cannot change the market price.”
Meanwhile, PSV coach Phillip Cocu is convinced Memphis Depay will be a success for Manchester United this season. United beat a host of Europe’s top clubs – including Paris Saint-Germain – to Depay’s signature in May, but he is yet to score in the Premier League.
Van Gaal substituted the 21-year-old at half-time in the match against Liverpool because the Dutch manager felt his compatriot gave the ball away too much.
Cocu got the best out of Depay at PSV last year, where he scored 22 league goals for the club, and he is sure the forward will find his touch in front of goal for his new team soon.
“It’s normal you need some time to grow, you need a lot of games,” the PSV boss said. “Physically he’s very strong and he’s a quick learner also. And I’m sure when he gets some time he’ll get it very fast. He will bring goals.
“He’s a very vertical player who always likes to play towards the goal. Not only will he score goals, he has good vision. “He will have some ups and downs. I’m sure after he has played for a few months, he will get better and better.”
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