PSV Eindhoven are set to venture into the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2009 and their first opponents are one of the most successful clubs in the world. Manchester United have claimed the European Cup silverware three times as well as winning the Cup Winners Cup in 1991 and arrive in Eindhoven on Tuesday to face Philip Cocu’s men.
Memphis Depay, PSV’s record sale of any player in their history, arrives home to face his former side and will look to make an impact which he has failed to do so far in the Premier League. The 21-year-old winger, however did help the Red Devils qualify for the group stages notching twice in part one of the Playoff round against Club Brugge at Old Trafford.
Manchester United defeated bitter rivals Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday evening however, in all fairness it was a poor game including an atrocious first half. There was no creative spark for Van Gaal’s side, which looked like they lacked energy and passion. Apart from left-back Luke Shaw getting forward there was very little to admire from either side.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, the powerful big Belgian Marouane Fellaini was used as makeshift centre-forward in the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney but failed to make an impression. Although, United were the home side, they seemed to be restricted by their tactical straitjacket enforced on them without Rooney, but still against a poor Liverpool side, who have only scored three goals all season, they still ran out 3-1 winners.
The second half showed an improvement from the Old Trafford outfit mainly due to new sense of urgency that half-time substitute Ashley Young (replacing Depay) brought on with him. Former Ajax man Daley Blind scored a good goal just after the break, although Brendan Rodgers’ men did not look switched on to close the Dutchman down.
One thing Van Gaal has constructed in Manchester is a well-organised defence, even though some second-half chances from the Reds made the back four look uncomfortable under pressure. The inexperienced Joe Gomez gave away a penalty to set-up Ander Herrera to make it 2-0 and after Christian Benetke (Liverpool) grabbed a consolation with a perfect overhead kick, a young Frenchman appeared off the bench to send the 75,347 into raptures.
The £58.8 million price tag was deemed as ‘ridiculous’ by Van Gaal prior to Saturday’s game, but 18-year-old Anthony Martial, a window signing from AS Monaco, killed the game off in style and paid off a tiny bit of monstrous fee. With great composure the teenager, making his debut, had veteran defender Martin Skrtel retreating before placing a shot into the Liverpool net.
PSV could trouble United come Tuesday night with their precision passing and speed off the counter. Look for Maxime Lestienne to stress out Darmain in the right-back position and Luuk de Jong should prove to be a handful, especially if the much smaller Daley Blind is sitting in central defence.
Manchester United will be without Rooney through injury and Van Gaal may look to the young Martial to make his first start and gain further confidence after his dream start.
MANAGER PROFILE: Louis van Gaal
Great tactician. Disciplinarian. Legend. Can all be words to describe former Ajax manager Louis van Gaal, who has one Champions League medal himself with the Amsterdammers. The 64-year-old stepped into the Red Devils’ hot-seat after David Moyes failed to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, when the famous Scotsman retired in 2013.
The clipboard wielding Dutchman has had little success in his tenure in Manchester so far, but this is indeed a transitional period for the 20-time league title winning side, where Van Gaal is bringing in his own players, own formation and own style of football to the Premier League.
KEY PLAYER: Memphis Depay
If Memphis Depay is going to pick his game up, surely the Philips Stadion is his perfect stage to perform this act. The 21-year-old is physically strong, fast and skilful so has all the credentials to be a top player but looks to having a tough time adjusting in the Premier League. Obviously, PSV head coach Philip Cocu knows the player very well and will look to Colombian right-back Santiago Arias to control Depay and keep him quiet. Arias will find it hard to discover a tougher task in his career, although as he proved in Saturday’s 6-0 win away to SC Cambuur, Depay may have to do some defending of his own.
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