After missing out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the 2014-15 season, Manchester United’s current squad will be feeling plenty of pressure ahead of the first leg of their playoff round clash with Club Brugge on Tuesday.
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In his first season in charge, Louis van Gaal guided the Red Devils back to Europe’s elite club competition following a seventh place finish in 2013-14 saw them out of Europe, but United must overcome a home-and-away playoff against Belgian outfit Brugge to advance to the UCL group stages. That won’t be easy.
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Speaking ahead of the first leg at Old Trafford (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSports.com) Van Gaal admits the pressure is there to prevail in Europe.
“It is a lot of pressure because our aim is to reach the Champions League. This kind of match is difficult because we have drawn Brugge, and Brugge with [their] splendid coach can defend very well, I think, and they can attack also,” van Gaal said. “So it shall be a difficult match and that is why the pressure is high. The players, the fans and the board all want us to participate in the Champions League, but first [we] have to beat Club Brugge.”
United have been champions of Europe three times during their illustrious history, but qualifying for the group stage to bring UCL nights back to Old Trafford, plus boost England’s co-efficient in UEFA’s rankings, would be hugely beneficial to both the club and the PL overall.
Van Gaal confirmed that David de Gea will once again miss out as the Spanish goalkeeper remains locked in a dispute over his future at United. De Gea, 24, only has one-year left on his current deal with United but is being chased by Real Madrid. However, reports claim he will remain at United this season after being offered a huge signing-on fee by Real if he joins them on a free transfer next summer.
In other teams news, Marouane Fellaini will return to the squad but his domestic suspension continues, while LVG has also backed striker Wayne Rooney after his captain failed to score in the lone-striker role during his first two PL games of the season, which were 1-0 victories against both Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.