Louis van Gaal blames preseason for team’s poor start
Manchester United manager was unhappy with itinerary of last summer’s US tour
Wayne Rooney is expected to be available for Manchester United’s match against West Brom on Saturday. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP
His team failed to win the opening three matches of the campaign and after 10 matches, United had only 13 points, which was the poorest return since the 1986/87 season under Ron Atkinson.
During the tour van Gaal stated his unhappiness at the itinerary, which featured games in Los Angeles, Denver, Washington DC, Ann Arbour and Miami, and the manager now believes the schedule cost United valuable ground on Chelsea, who need only beat Crystal Palace on Sunday to become champions.
José Mourinho’s side are 15 points clear of United, who have 65 and are in third position. Asked what the key to bridging the gap will be next season van Gaal said: “We need balance in our selection. I have said this many times. I cannot deny that we need balance. I think also the preparation of our season, Manchester United has already adapted to a better preparation.
“We shall have two bases in the US so we are not flying between matches, we are going via bus which is better. They have adapted to my criteria so we shall have a better preparation.
“We have started very badly this year. When you cut out the start we shall equal Chelsea but we have to start better. When I previewed our preparation now it looks better but we have to see of course. Then we have to make the balance in our selection better and then we have to perform better than this year.”
On this summer’s tour, United play four matches in Seattle, Santa Clara and Chicago in what is a shortened schedule.
Meanwhile, van Gaal will have Wayne Rooney available for the visit of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday evening but Michael Carrick, Marcos Rojo, Jonny Evans and Luke Shaw are all ruled out with injury. Regarding Rooney, who had a minor knee complaint, van Gaal said: “Wayne is very important for us, so I am very happy.”