There is no other rivalry in the Premier League bigger that the one between the cross town neighbors Liverpool and Manchester United and when the Round of 16 draws threw out a battle between these two, it was a game the whole world will be waiting for.
Louis van Gaal who is unbeaten as a manager in the league against Liverpool has a chance to set a record of 4 consecutive victories over the arch-rivals. But the manager urged the media ahead of his side’s clash with the Reds to not remind him of his record.
“When you are writing that it is much more difficult for my players to win the fifth battle against them so don’t write it!” he told reporters at his press conference.
He insisted that the Europa League is “very important” to Manchester United this season. The Red Devils are still in the FA Cup but their league form has reduced the Europa league to be the only way into the Champions League next season.
The Dutchman explained that the UEL is important to many teams and that the media is making it look like it is not a big deal for the clubs.
“I noticed that you have a negative view [of the Europa League in England].”
“How many fans do you think we’ll have against Liverpool, I think maybe 75,000.”
“I think also Liverpool is sold out, so that’s what I have to say, it’s very important for both teams and the fans are liking to see the duel between us,” he added.
United and Liverpool have won 20 and 18 league titles, respectively, along with a combined eight European Cups but both clubs have struggled in recent past and the manager felt that the success stories are of a bygone era.
“In football, it’s normal,” the Reds manager said of teams falling from the summit.
“It was another time, you live in the past and you have to live in the present, I think,” he added.
Marouane Fellaini was on the bench in the West Midlands and is in contention to feature in the Europa League first leg, which could also witness Antonio Valencia’s return from a long-standing foot injury.
“I don’t think (any new players shall be available), but Valencia is of course fit enough to be on the bench,” Van Gaal added. “But to play 90 minutes, I don’t think so.
“Valencia has a week so he is much closer to be on the bench, for example, but not to play in the (entire) match. That is different.”
United are set to welcome a number of injured players back into the team by the end of this month with German mid-fielder Bastian Schweinsteiger coming back to training.
However, the manager explained that the club will have to check twice before putting them into the ruthless Premier League schedule at the business end of the season.
“Schweinsteiger is coming back and has had only one has one training session with us behind him.”
“I think a lot shall come back in March but when they come back it is not so easy to decide if they can cope with the rhythm of a match because they are fit to train with us,” he added.