18 October 2014 16:19
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal expects another testing Premier League outing at West Brom on Monday.
Following a sometimes trying start to his Old Trafford tenure, Van Gaal is chasing three consecutive wins for the first time as United boss following battling 2-1 home victories over West Ham and Everton before the international break.
United’s last defeat came in dramatic fashion at the hands of Leicester City on September 21 and Van Gaal, who boasts league titles in Spain, Germany and his native Netherlands over the course of a decorated career, believes the English top flight is unique, such is the competitive edge provided by every fixture.
“You can lose in this sport,” he told a pre-match press conference. “Only Chelsea didn’t lose [so far this season].
“West Bromwich Albion are difficult to beat, also at home. They play not only long balls but can play a possession game so it’s not easy to beat.
“There’s no club in the Premier League that is easy to beat. That’s the difference from other leagues I think.”
The break for international fixtures was a timely one for a packed United treatment room and Van Gaal reports only defenders Jonny Evans and Paddy McNair and wide men Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard among his remaining injury absentees.
Captain Wayne Rooney will serve the second game of a three-match suspension at The Hawthorns, while midfielder Ander Herrera may feature as he concludes his recovery from a broken rib.
“[Herrera] could play in a corset,” Van Gaal told MUTV.
West Brom coach Alan Irvine remains without winger Silvestre Varela (groin) but hopes for an otherwise clean bill of health, with skipper Chris Brunt racing to recover from a groin complaint sustained while away with Northern Ireland.
“Chris Brunt was the only one who came back with a problem but we’re hopeful. He came back early and fortunately that gave us time to work with him,” said Irvine.
As question marks remain over United’s defence under Van Gaal, plenty of focus will be placed upon in-form West Brom forward Saido Berahino – the Premier League’s top-scoring Englishman so far this term with five goals.
Berahino also scored a first-leg penalty to help England Under-21s book a European Championship place at Croatia’s expense last week.
“He’s flying at the moment,” Irvine added. “He’s feeling good about himself and in a great place.
“For England to go and win as comfortably as they did was credit to him and the team.
“He now has a chance to play in the finals and that will be good for him. If he keeps going the way he is he will gather momentum.
“Saido is going in the right direction for us and for England.”