English Premiership

Robson backs Van Gaal for glory

2014-07-16 09:24
Bryan Robson (File)

New manager Louis van Gaal can propel Manchester United back into Premier League contention after their dismal form of last season and excite the players again, former United skipper Bryan Robson said on Tuesday.

Robson, speaking a day before the Netherlands' World Cup coach Van Gaal arrives in Manchester to take up his new post, also said that the lack of European football at Old Trafford could help the team back to the top.

"You could see Holland were very well organised in the World Cup and there was discipline. Hopefully, he can bring that to Manchester. I think he will," Robson told BBC Sport.

"They can bounce back straight away. His CV is great. He's got great experience with top clubs and top players."

United finished a lowly seventh in the Premier League last season - 22 points behind champions Manchester City - under former Everton boss David Moyes who replaced long-standing manager Alex Ferguson.

"A lot of the players let themselves down (last season) and didn't perform the way they had under Sir Alex," said Robson, who spent 13 years at United and earned the nickname "Captain Marvel" for his driving performances in midfield.

"They will be up for the challenge and will be excited by the new coach."

The lack of European football, while disappointing, could also be beneficial to United, who failed to qualify for either this season's Champions League or Europa League, he said.

"The players get a bit more rest and you don't get as many injuries," he said. "That can also be a real advantage."

Van Gaal arrives at United on a wave of hope and expectation following his Dutch team's performance at the World Cup, where they finished third with the 62-year-old's reputation greatly enhanced.

He was heavily criticised when he changed Dutch tactics and ditched the traditional attacking style on the eve of the Brazil tournament.

In a country obsessed with playing possession football, the decision to adopt a defensive approach, with emphasis on swift counter-attacks, was tantamount to heresy but Van Gaal was eventually proved right - after getting his senior players to buy into his belief.

"He had everyone believing in the tactical changes and the fact it would work for us," said Wesley Sneijder on the team's return home this week. "Our success in the tournament was a lot about the coach."

There were few detractors by the end of the World Cup as the Dutch battled their way to the semifinals, finally being eliminated by Argentina on penalties.

BELIEF IN YOUTH

He was also not scared to throw young players - like Memphis Depay and Jordy Clasie - into key World Cup games, highlighting his belief in youth.

In Brazil, Van Gaal made few references to his new job - he signed a three-year contract with United in May - but looked genuinely enthusiastic when he eventually spoke about his next assignment after last Saturday's 3-0 win over Brazil in the third place playoff.

"It is an exciting challenge," he told Dutch television.

It is a return to club football for Van Gaal for the first time since Bayern Munich sacked him in 2011.

Van Gaal has shown little of his hand yet with the pre-season signings of Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao and Luke Shaw from Southampton.

At Barcelona more than decade ago he was heavily criticised for creating a colony of Dutch players, but one of them says that is unlikely to happen at Old Trafford.

"There were seven players dominating the changing room, speaking Dutch and not moving out of our own bubble. It was a very unhealthy situation and I think Louis realised that. He won't do it again," Ronald de Boer, now an analyst on NOS television, predicted.

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Fixtures
16 August 2014
Manchester United v Swansea City, Old Trafford 13:45
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur, Boleyn Ground 16:00
Stoke City v Aston Villa, Britannia Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v Everton, King Power Stadium 16:00
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City, Loftus Road Stadium 16:00
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland, The Hawthorns 16:00
Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Emirates Stadium 18:30
17 August 2014
Liverpool v Southampton, Anfield 14:30
Newcastle United v Manchester City, St. James' Park 17:00
18 August 2014
Burnley v Chelsea, Turf Moor 21:00
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