In Review

Man Utd vs Liverpool preview: pressure builds on van Gaal

Without a win this weekend, Louis van Gaal's record will match that of David Moyes when he was sacked

A little over a month into the season and Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal already finds himself under pressure.

Seven points from the first four Premier League matches is not what the fans expected after a summer spending spree that topped £115m and included the signings of Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

To compound the misgivings of the Old Trafford fans, Manchester City rivals have taken maximum points in their first four games and have already opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table.

City play second-placed Crystal Palace tomorrow while United host Liverpool in a game they must win if they're to ease the pressure on van Gaal, who has won just 27 of his 50 matches in charge (his predecessor, David Moyes, was sacked after winning 27 of 51 matches).

The Dutchman won't have been pleased to read yesterday's "exclusive" in the Daily Telegraph that claimed his players were "angered" at the way he treated Rafael da Silva. The full-back was sold to Lyon in the summer and the Telegraph claims the manner in which van Gaal went about the sale left many players feeling he had "showed a lack of respect towards a popular and long-serving player".

That's not the only issue with which some of the United squad have taken umbrage, says the Telegraph, which claims that van Gaal's dependence on video analyst Max Reckers has also created friction.

Reckers, also a Dutchman, is responsible for analysing United's opponents and also their own players, and video sessions are said to be long and monotonous. There is reportedly a feeling that van Gaal is focusing too much "on formation and tactics rather than flair".

Van Gaal has always enjoyed a reputation of a martinet but the Telegraph alleges that his "rigid approach has led to discontent within the dressing-room at the club", and prompted captain Wayne Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick to request that he adopt a less stringent approach, and allow the players more freedom on the pitch.

At least United will host a Liverpool side themselves suffering a crisis of confidence following their 3-0 home defeat to West Ham. It was the worst possible way for the Reds to sign off before the two-week international break, and manager Brendan Rodgers is once more under pressure despite Liverpool's encouraging early start to the season. Wins over Stoke and Bournemouth were followed by a goalless draw at Arsenal, but the heavy home defeat to the Hammers brought back memories for the Kop of some of last season's dispiriting defeats.

There was some good news, however, for Rodgers on Thursday as Daniel Sturridge took part in a full contact session at the club's training ground. The England striker hasn't kicked a ball in anger since April because of a hip injury, but while he won't be fit for tomorrow's clash at Old Trafford, Rodgers is reportedly "delighted" with his progress. According to the Daily Mirror Jordan Henderson is another Red who won't line up against United because of a foot problem while Adam Lallana is struggling with a thigh strain and Philippe Coutinho is sidelined through suspension.

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