Under-cooked Man United consider extra friendlies
30 September 2014, 15:50
London - Not involved in European competition and knocked out of the League Cup, Manchester United are considering playing midweek friendlies abroad to help manager Louis van Gaal prepare for Premier League matches.
Van Gaal has used an astonishing 29 different players in the club's opening six league games of the season but a potential lack of competitive matches to keep a large squad match fit is causing concern.
United beat Real Madrid 3-1 in a friendly in Michigan on their pre-season tour of the United States and the club's managing director Richard Arnold thinks Van Gaal would be happy to play more such games.
"We have a fantastic partnership in terms of our work off the pitch and I'm very appreciative of the support we have had from him," Arnold said.
"For many years of our international tours, there is a plan to ensure we get that team-building that goes together with getting the team all together in one place.
"That's something that's being looked at with regards to the future."
Injuries and a number of transfers in and out of Old Trafford have contributed to the high number of players used but the meticulous Dutchman will be praying for more consistency of selection as he attempts to rebuild the team.
He will be without his captain Wayne Rooney for the next three games following the England's forward's red card against West Ham and Juan Mata is likely to be restored to the playmaking role behind the two strikers.
United's defensive problems could be eased by the return of Phil Jones for Sunday's game against Everton but Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are still injured and Tyler Blackett suspended.
Van Gaal's reign at United may have started unconvincingly on the pitch but the Dutchman's influence behind the scenes is growing fast and he has urged his players to become outspoken in team meetings.
"Everybody gets involved in the project and everyone has their own say, which is maybe new for some players but not for me as I know how he works," said United striker Robin van Persie, who played for the Netherlands under Van Gaal.
"I think it's very interesting and very good because we are all pulling on the same rope, as the Dutch say. It is very demanding in a good way, as you have to be focused every single day of the sessions or the meetings."
Van Persie said United's main target for the season was to qualify for the Champions League again.
"That's our aim this year to be sure, to be in the top four," he said. "If you look at our players, fans, squad, stadium it's normal to be in the top four.
"If I look at what I have seen in training and on the pitch in games I can see that it is getting much better. Now we have to extend that and make at least the top four."
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