Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has warned Louis van Gaal to expect a tough time in his first season in the Premier League, insisting Manchester United may find it difficult to achieve success in the Dutchman's early days at Old Trafford.
David McDonnell of the Mirror reported on the Northern Irishman's words about Van Gaal after his team were defeated by United in the International Champions Cup final, in Miami.
Rodgers said, per McDonnell:
I think what he’ll find is the competition in this league will be different to any other league that he’s worked in. 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.
101 Great Goals highlighted the headlines created by Rodgers' comments:
Van Gaal has led United through a highly successful pre-season campaign. The Red Devils return home undefeated, having beaten Liverpool and Real Madrid 3-1 in the process.
LvG's team toppled Liverpool on Monday after a strong second-half display pegged back Rodgers' side.
The Liverpool boss responded with a warning for his United counterpart, prompting the following reaction from Bleacher Report's Paul Ansorge and Sabotage Times' Paul Gunning:
I tend to stay away from inter club nonsense for the most part, but Rodgers saying the premier league will surprise Van Gaal is amazing.— Paul (@UtdRantcast) August 5, 2014
I bet Van Gaal, who's won titles in Spain, Germany and Holland, pays close attention to Brendan Rodgers, who's won titles, erm... nowhere.— pauliegunn (@PaulGunning1) August 5, 2014
Rodgers' comments, in reference to Van Gaal, can be interpreted in two ways:
Firstly, he is absolutely correct that LvG is entering a league where the competition is at its fiercest, in world football. Top managers have come to the English league before and failed because of the sheer force of nature from the competition.
Van Gaal has succeeded in Germany and Spain, where title challenges largely become two-horse races. Heading into the new Premier League campaign, it's fair to say any one of five or six teams could top the table.
Navigating a full season at an optimum is almost impossible in the Premier League and Van Gaal may find life difficult as he tries to revive United's fortunes without dropping points.
However, Rodgers may also feel slightly threatened as he looks to match Liverpool's performance of last year without his talisman Luis Suarez.
Liverpool looked strong against United in the first 45 minutes of their ICC final but faded in the second half as Van Gaal tactically turned the screw on the Merseysiders.
Liverpool's lack of firepower was evident in the match and it is easy to surmise that they will not score in the volume of 2013-14.
Last year, Rodgers' team hit a staggering 101 goals in their league campaign, per Squawka, but also conceded 50 times—a defensive record that was worse than Crystal Palace and seventh-place United.
If Rodgers cannot replace the efforts of Suarez, it could be a very tough season for the Reds as they look to emulate a performance without their world-class star, and with the additional burden of Champions League football on their back.
But this is indeed Van Gaal's biggest challenge of his career. He has already shown that he can get United playing in a controlled and progressive manner, and the team looks nothing like it did under David Moyes.
However, as Rodgers said, there are no easy games in the Premier League, and this might catch out the Dutchman as he tries to introduce a balanced tactical approach.
Who will be more successful in 2014-15?
Ultimately, Van Gaal will be judged on United's final league position in the coming season, and with the Red Devils still to add any world-class talent to their squad during the transfer window, they may take time to climb the league.
But Van Gaal is meticulous in his planning, and the Netherlands' recent World Cup campaign is proof he knows how to deconstruct opponents, even when he is unable to play his favoured attacking formation of 4-3-3.