Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, has questioned Louis van Gaal’s ability to cope with the demands of the Premier League and believes the new Manchester United manager will struggle to win the title in his first season in English football.
Van Gaal was left celebrating at the end of his first meeting with United’s bitter rivals after Wayne Rooney, who was captain for the evening, helped his side recover from a goal down to beat Liverpool 3-1 and win the Guinness International Champions Cup here on Monday night. Steven Gerrard’s penalty put Liverpool ahead, but Rooney and Juan Mata scored within two minutes of each other before Jesse Lingard rounded things off.
Liverpool tonight agreed a £2.5m deal with Bayern Munich for the sale of goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The Spaniard had fallen out of favour at Anfield and spent last season on loan at Napoli. He will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Pep Guardiola at Bayern.
Rodgers, despite acknowledging his respect for Van Gaal’s stellar CV which includes managing the likes of Bayern, Ajax and Barça, believes he will find it extremely difficult to cope with the fierce, unpredictable nature of English football. “I think what he’ll find is the competition in this league will be different to any other league that he’s worked in,” said Rodgers.
“In a lot of the other leagues, there are one or two teams and those are the teams that are expected to win.
“This is a league where the top team plays the bottom team and on any given day you can lose. You don’t get that a lot in the other leagues. I think the competition will probably take him by surprise and that’s from foreign managers I have spoken to over the years.
“I’ve worked closely with foreign players who have come in, and that real physical competitive nature will be different to anywhere else he’s worked before.”
Van Gaal will be keen to tell his Liverpool counterpart how he won trophies in Spain and Germany during his first seasons but Rodgers knows with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all working hard to improve this summer, the competition at the top will be as fierce as ever.
“I think it’s going to be really competitive. Last season was great and right the way through there were four or five teams right up there, and then in the closing months it narrowed down a wee bit,” Rodgers said. “The Premier League historically shows that it’s a very competitive league. Man United will want to bounce back, Chelsea will be strong, Manchester City are the champions so they’ll be the favourites.”
Rooney, who has looked in fine form for United in their four-match US tour scoring five times, seemed to thrive on the responsibility given to him by Van Gaal, who hinted the England forward could be the man to lead his side out in their Premier League opener against Swansea City a week on Saturday.
Robin van Persie had been tipped to be named captain by his fellow countryman yet Van Gaal looks likely to prefer Rooney. “I am always looking for opportunities to give players the captain’s armband. Today Rooney played 90 minutes for the first time,” Van Gaal said.