Louis Van Gaal Can Expect Lesson in Allure of Premier League Versus Sunderland

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 23, 2014


Louis van Gaal will face another first at the Stadium of Light on Sunday. And he will discover, for the first time, why the Premier League likes to call itself the best in the world.

English football's top flight might not be the best in terms of quality. Spanish and German teams are busy dominating the Champions League.

But it can make serious claim to being the most exciting. 

A blockbuster action film with expensive special effects isn't going to win any prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. But it'll still make millions at the box office.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Anyone can beat anyone in the Premier League. And Sunderland will fancy their chances of getting one over on a United side that has already been beaten once this season.

Van Gaal talked of his players' confidence being "smashed" after the opening-day defeat to Swansea City. On Sunday, they face a Sunderland side still flying after last season's great escape.

Perspective is everything. 

When the Premier League fixtures were released in June, United fans might have expected to take a considerable points haul from their first six games against Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, QPR, Leicester and West Ham.

But that was when optimism still reigned. Van Gaal had been appointed and was in the process of showing off his credentials at the World Cup.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Ed Woodward was busy in the transfer market, closing in on deals for Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.

But with a little over a week before the transfer deadline, the dark clouds of last season have started to gather again. 

The summer business hasn't been quite what the fans expected. And the defeat to Swansea has reaffirmed their belief that they are still a long way from challenging for the title and even reclaiming their place in the top four.

Suddenly, a trip to Sunderland, threatened with relegation last season, looks a lot more daunting.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Van Gaal insists it will take three months for his players to get to grips with his ideas and methods. But he will find on Sunday that a packed Stadium of Light is not the best learning environment. 

There was a time, not so long ago, when United would only have to turn up at places like Sunderland and roll over the opposition with minimal fuss.

But the aura of invincibility was dismantled last season. And it will take time for Van Gaal to repair it.

On Sunday in the north-east, he will get another lesson in just how difficult a job that will be.