Manchester United-Burnley F.C. Preview
Louis van Gaal could hardly have had a worse start at Manchester United.
Coming off an embarrassing League Cup loss, the Red Devils again try to regroup as they face newly promoted Burnley on Saturday.
The biggest club in English football were expected to bounce back into title contention under the stewardship of the veteran Dutch boss, but the early signs have not been good. A 2-1 home defeat to Swansea on the opening day of the season was followed by a draw at Sunderland, leaving the Red Devils five points behind their top-four rivals.
However, things went from bad to worse Tuesday night when Milton Keynes Dons - from the third tier of English football - dished out a humiliating 4-0 drubbing to United. The defeat prompted a furious response from supporters and pundits alike, but a defiant Van Gaal called for patience.
"It's difficult for the fans, I know that, but they have to believe in our philosophy. At the end, they can judge, but not now. We are building up a team which you can't make in one month, even one year."
It hasn't all been bad news for United this week. Wayne Rooney was given a huge fillip on Thursday when he was named captain of the England international team following the retirement of Steven Gerrard. And earlier in the week saw the arrival of Real Madrid midfielder Angel di Maria to Manchester United for a Premier League record fee of almost £60 million.
The Argentine has been one of the biggest stars in world football in recent seasons, starring on the wing during his early time at Madrid before adapting into a superb central midfielder following the arrival of Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu. Nobody had more assists than Di Maria in La Liga last season, and he was named Man of the Match for a brilliant display in the Champions League final, so it is no wonder Van Gaal is delighted to have him at Old Trafford.
"I think he shall contribute very much in our way of playing," said the United boss. "He can play inside and wide - it's very handy is that for a coach."
Burnley beat Manchester United in their only previous Premier League meeting at Turf Moor - back in 2009 - but were eventually relegated that season. They have yet to pick up a point since returning to the top-flight, but manager Sean Dyche is relishing the opportunity to take on the big boys.
"I don't think it could get much bigger than Manchester United coming to Turf Moor. Nobody is naive to the challenge here and we know we're walking into almost every game as underdogs. But we all want it and we're thirsty for it. We all wanted it last year and we all want it now, so the challenge is to learn quickly, adjust and go hard as we always do."
The hosts will be without striker Sam Vokes due to a knee injury. The Welsh forward played a big part in getting the Clarets up into the Premier League, so the goal-scoring pressure will fall mainly on the shoulders of strike partner Danny Ings.
United will hope to introduce Di Maria for his debut but will be unable to call on the injured Ander Herrera (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (ankle), Luke Shaw (hamstring) and Michael Carrick (ankle). New signing Marcos Rojo is unlikely to feature.
It is expected that Van Gaal will continue with a three-man back line, primarily to allow Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata to all fit into the team in central areas.