London - Louis van Gaal is adamant Manchester United remain on course for a
successful season despite Pedro Rodriguez's decision to snub a move to Old
Trafford in favour of joining Chelsea.
Van Gaal had hoped to unveil Barcelona winger Pedro as his latest new
recruit this week after United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward flew to
Spain to finalise the deal.
But the Spain international had a late change of heart and opted for a
switch to Premier League champions Chelsea instead.
It was another transfer blow for United manager van Gaal, who also recently
missed out on top defensive target Sergio Ramos after the Spaniard decided to
stay at Real Madrid.
But van Gaal sees no reason to panic because fourth placed United, who host
Newcastle on Saturday, have won their first two league fixtures and also
defeated Club Brugge 3-1 in a Champions League play-off first leg tie in
"You have to wait to see. It's not any pressure for me. We have 28
players. We did it last season without Pedro," van Gaal said when asked if
he would keep looking for new signings.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner claims Monday's clash with Arsenal is the
perfect opportunity to test his side's improvement since last season.
Brendan Rodgers' team have been widely written off as also-rans in this
season's title race after limping to a sixth place finish that saw the Reds
trail in 25 points behind champions Chelsea last term.
But they have made a quietly encouraging start and head to the Emirates
stadium in third place after grinding out 1-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth.
Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 home defeat against West Ham before getting back on
track with a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
And Milner, a close-season signing from Manchester City, believes Liverpool
will get the kind of stern examination in north London that should indicate how
much they need to improve to challenge for the title.
"They look sharp," Milner said. "They had a disappointing
result in their first game against West Ham but they are a quality team and
will want to bounce back from that and try to get their run going."
Rocked by their surprise loss to West Ham, Arsenal looked more composed and
clinical against Palace and German defender Per Mertesacker has revealed how
clear-the-air talks helped them kick-start their campaign.
"Obviously when everything goes very smooth in pre-season, you avoid
those talks. But there was a need for it when we came out of the (West Ham)
match," he said.
"You could already feel something when you are in the relegation zone,
and not having produced what everyone expected from you, so it was important to
Arsenal's early inconsistency is nothing in comparison to the dismal start
made by Chelsea, who have endured their worst opening for 17 years after a 2-2
draw against Swansea and then a 3-0 thrashing at Manchester City.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho has acted swiftly by signing Pedro and Ghana
left-back Baba Rahman from Augsburg.
With Pedro and Rahman potentially in line for debuts at West Bromwich Albion
on Sunday, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic has no doubts his team will soon
bounce back from lacklustre opening he blames on the earlier than usual start
to the season.
The kick off was moved to August 8 to give England manager Roy Hodgson extra
time to prepare his side for Euro 2016.
"Those 10 days in terms of preparation between what we did last year
and this year make a difference and is maybe a problem," Matic said.
Early pace setters Manchester City will look to maintain their 100 percent
record when the leaders travel to Everton on Sunday.
City will be without Argentina right-back Pablo Zabaleta, who has been ruled
out for a month with a knee injury, but his compatriot Nicolas Otamendi, signed
from Valencia this week, could be included in Manuel Pellegrini's squad.