Manchester United v Chelsea: Louis van Gaal says his ‘iron shield’ will protect him from Jose Mourinho
konknaijaboy | On 25, Oct 2014
United manager says rival’s mind games have no effect and that he expects Costa to be fit for Sunday’s game
Louis van Gaal has claimed his “iron shield” will protect him from Jose Mourinho’s psychological warfare as he prepares to expose his Manchester United team to the acid test of their progress against Chelsea.
Three months into his reign as United manager, Van Gaal’s stuttering start shows no sign of denting his self-confidence ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Mourinho, whose coaching career blossomed under Van Gaal’s tutelage at Barcelona more than a decade ago.
There have been defensive problems, costly dropped points in the Premier League and a humiliating 4-0 Capital One Cup defeat against MK Dons, but United have yet to face an outfit as formidable as Chelsea under the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach. But with Mourinho delivering mixed messages on the fitness of leading scorer Diego Costa, Van Gaal insists that neither his old protégé, nor outside forces, possess the ammunition to pierce his “iron” exterior.
“I am [made] from a little bit of iron,” Van Gaal said. “So I have a shield, an iron shield. No [nothing can get past it]. It took me a long time to understand that, but I have learned not to react and believe in myself, my players, my staff and that is important.
“Why does Mourinho anger other managers? You have to ask him. I don’t know him as a manager. I’m never there [against him]. I knew him as a person and as my assistant manager. But we hardly speak to each other. Sometimes we SMS, but when we see each other, we feel the warmth between us and our families, so that’s nice.”
Van Gaal claimed in January, when attending a tribute dinner in honour of Mourinho, that he had to be more “humble” towards the Portuguese because his old apprentice was “now better than me”.
“He [Mourinho] is very special,” Van Gaal said. “But he is very special for me because I’ve worked with him and we’ve continued our relationship, which in the football world is not always normal. So that’s nice, I think.”
Whether Van Gaal is genuinely unfazed by Mourinho — a man who has infamously irked Arsène Wenger, Rafael Benítez, Manuel Pellegrini and others — or merely attempting to flatter him, the reality is that the United manager’s key concerns are on the pitch rather than off it.
Chelsea arrive at Old Trafford 10 points clear of United, whose supposedly ‘easy’ start to the season has seen them win just three league games and collect only one point from fixtures against promoted Leicester City and Burnley.
Van Gaal’s ‘philosophy’ has yet to bear fruit, despite the influx of more than £150 million worth of summer signings, but his personal touch and demeanour around the club have bought him valuable time to impose his methods.
“They are a world apart from the last lot,’ claimed one member of staff at Carrington on Friday, when speaking of Van Gaal and his coaches in comparison to David Moyes and his staff. “They know how to treat people, for a start.”
Moyes’s inability to earn the warmth and respect of players and staff alike ultimately contributed to his demise, but while Van Gaal has avoided that pitfall so far, he has yet to cajole a truly encouraging performance from his team against established opponents.
Chelsea will provide that measuring stick, followed by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday week, but Van Gaal insists that Mourinho endured similar teething problems on his return to Stamford Bridge.
“You have to analyse that I have started just three months ago and him [Mourinho] longer,” Van Gaal said. “I’ve said that before. Jose has worked more than one year already with his team and last year they didn’t win any prize, so you have to build up and he has built up Chelsea. You have to build up and they are now playing like a team. I want my teams to do that. Play like a team for 90 minutes.
“We did that I think against West Brom on Monday, but we made individual errors. It is logical that Jose is further with his team than I am with Manchester United, but nevertheless, we can win on Sunday. Chelsea are one of the top teams, I think also Manchester City are at the moment.”
Chelsea with a fit Costa, the prolific summer signing from Atlético Madrid, would ensure an even sterner test of United’s credentials.
The £32 million forward missed the Champions League victory against Maribor with a hamstring injury before spending time in hospital with a stomach bug, prompting Mourinho to suggest that he only has a “little chance” of making the game at Old Trafford.
But Van Gaal, doubting Mourinho’s motives, is planning for Costa to be in the Chelsea line-up.
“I think that Jose shall play with him when he can because he wants to win,” Van Gaal said. “Of course he can play maybe because he has trained individually, I have heard and read on the websites.
“I also have my eyes always open! He’s scored nine out of seven – that is remarkable, so he’s in good shape, I think, but he was ill yesterday, so you never know.”