Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has spoken of his admiration of Everton FC football philosophy ahead of the sides’ Premier League clash on Sunday.
Everton defeated the ‘Red Devils’ on the road for the first time in 21 years last season courtesy of Costa Rican midfielder Brian Oviedo’s effort in the 86th minute. The Goodison Park outfit then sealed a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture in April to complete a double against United for the first time since 1969.
“I have to say that I like Everton because they want to play football like I want to play football. It shall be a very interesting game,” said the 63-year-old in his pre-match media briefing on Friday.
“I know we lost to them twice last season so it will be difficult. I hope we can dominate the game but they will want to do that too. They are more likely to play on the counter than us. That’s also the difficulty.”
Everton forced a 1-1 draw in last weekend’s Merseyside derby at Liverpool’s Anfield and snatched a similar outcome in Russia against FC Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday.
United, who are without midweek commitments this season after an early League Cup exit, would be expected to take advantage of their opponent’s campaign in Europe. But the Dutch boss thinks the ‘Toffees’ will rather fancy their chances of registering another nerve-wrecking three points at the used-to-be-fortress ‘Theater of Dream’.
“You have to look at how did you fly?” opined Van Gaal. “How did you manage that as a group or as individual players? It’s logical to say maybe we have the benefit but the motivation to play at Old Trafford against United is maybe much more important than the flight.”
Van Gaal is however not ruling out the prospect of playing midweek friendlies abroad after reports in the midweek suggested that the 20-time English champions have began weighing options on setting up lucrative fixtures to avert a further twist of fortunes.
“I spoke with Ed (Woodward) and Richard (Arnold) last week,” he said. “I fully agree.
“I’m used to playing midweeks. I have said in the first three months we must wait because it’s difficult enough for the players to adapt to the new playing style and organization.
“They shall honour that, I like to play midweek games against high level opponents.”
As well as maintaining the club’s structure after the disappointing seventh-place finish last season under David Moyes; United will look to restore a winning mentality which has long deserted the team.
Having held on to a 2-1 half-time lead at home to West Ham with ten men last week, Van Gaal will count on the likes of Patrick McNair, who is set to retain his place after an impressive debut against the Hammers, to ward off Everton’s attackers.
The boss admits he will “miss” Wayne Rooney, who is suspended for the whole of October after picking up his third United career red card in the previous match, but hints Spain midfielder Juan Mata could fill in for the captain.
Van Gaal added: “In his position Juan Mata has played very well. I have to choose. I will miss Wayne because he is the captain of the team but Mata can also play very well.”
Meanwhile, Rooney’s absence extends Van Gaal’s selection woes with a hosts of his squad members yet to return from injury.
“We have eight injuries and one red card so nine players are not available,” he said. “It’s difficult to explain. You can be fit but not match fit – that’s a big difference. For example, Ander Herrera is fit but he cannot play because of his rib pressure. Marouane Fellaini has trained for one week but is not fit to play 90 minutes.”