- Premier League
United regime set to get even tougher
Louis van Gaal says his Manchester United players will have to work even harder to make up for lost time once the season starts.
The Dutchman is unhappy at a lack of preparation time before the new Premier League season and, due to his and the players' World Cup commitments, has still not seen some of his squad in training; Robin van Persie only returned to action on Monday, less than two weeks before their first league match against Swansea.
United ended their pre-season tour of America with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Monday night, but Van Gaal had dubbed the trip "dreadful" in its early days and claimed it would hinder his preparation for the new campaign.
The squad at his disposal have travelled more than 13,000 miles in two weeks and have been put through their paces in double training sessions, but more hard work is expected as United prepare for a predicted three-month "struggle".
"I wish that we start a little bit later," Van Gaal told MUTV. "For example, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj and Nick Powell are not here. Van Persie started yesterday [Monday] so we are not ready yet. But, okay, we will have to train in the season more than ever to make sure we are prepared."
Van Gaal insisted on Sunday he would need the first 10 weeks of the season to intensively train his players, rather than allow them to play in lucrative friendlies when there are fixture windows which have been filled with European games in previous seasons.
He has made a forceful impact at the club and the United players, along with assistant manager Ryan Giggs, have warmed to his meticulous methods. Wayne Rooney, who is bidding to be named United captain, admitted he and his team-mates have found it tough so far, but the striker welcomed the no-nonsense approach.
The early indications are that the hard work is paying off. The manager's decision to adopt a 3-5-2 system has seen a transformation in several players; Juan Mata, Ashley Young and Wilfried Zaha have all shown promising form in pre-season and been full of praise for the impact the 62 year old has had.
Van Gaal is planning honest discussions with some of his players over their future in Manchester now the US tour is over and decisions are expected sooner rather than later with Zaha optimistic, Fellaini waiting to hear from his manager before deciding on a move to Napoli and Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez pursued by Atletico Madrid.
"Obviously, I have seen a lot and that's good," Van Gaal said. "Because then I can give my opinion and also what their perspectives are in the future and then they can choose.
"We have to be honest. We have to give advice to the players now at this moment and not at the end of August. Then we can't change anymore and they don't have a choice. Of course it's difficult to say something after two weeks but I think you have to say something."
Van Gaal, who was unveiled 59 days after being announced as David Moyes' successor, has quickly established a powerful presence at the club and has made several changes both on and off the pitch.
He is said to have installed £500,000-worth of camera equipment and ordered new pitches at their Carrington training ground, as well as having trees planted to restrict the impact of the wind.