Louis van Gaal has criticised Manchester United's transfer strategy during his time in charge and says he is proud of what he achieved at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman succeeded David Moyes as United boss in 2014 and lasted two seasons before being sacked, two days after victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.

United spent big on Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind ahead of Van Gaal's first season, while Radamel Falcao joined on loan.

However, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach has claimed he did not get any of his first-choice targets after inheriting an "outdated" squad.

"Manchester United did not have the qualities to become champions and had an outdated selection with 10 players over 30, five over 35," he told Voetbal International. 

"So I told them I was going to rejuvenate and which players should come. I didn't get one of those. 

"Then you end up in a different segment and as a coach you have to push your boundaries. You don't expect that at the richest club in the world.

"A turnover of £600million and you can't buy the players you need. You should buy number one and not number seven. 

"Of course, the selling club also thinks: If you are so rich, you also have to pay the highest amount imaginable for a player. That was what happened with transfers. 

"Then you have to do with the numbers seven or eight on your wish list. For which you actually pay way too much money, on which the coach is judged and convicted."

As well as lifting the FA Cup in his second season, Van Gaal got United back into the Champions League in 2014-15 following their struggles under Moyes.

A failure to finish in the top four in 2015-16 and complaints over his style of football ultimately cost the 68-year-old his job, but he ranks his achievements with United as the best of his career. 

"I am an optimist. You have to disappoint me more than once if I want to close the door," he said. "Everyone gets a second chance with me. 

"Despite those disappointments, Manchester United did win the FA Cup. Manchester United has actually been the greatest achievement of my career."

Marcus Rashford has revealed how Romelu Lukaku's selfless gesture enabled him to fire home the winning penalty in Manchester United's memorable Champions League turnaround at Paris Saint-Germain. 

Having lost the first leg of last season's last-16 tie 2-0 at Old Trafford, United made the trip to Paris with several first-team players missing through injury. 

Despite the odds being against the Red Devils, Lukaku's double – which was split by Juan Bernat's leveller – set the scene for a dramatic finale, during which Presnel Kimpembe was judged to have handled in the penalty area deep into second-half stoppage time. 

Lukaku, who has since moved to Inter, could have opted to take the spot-kick himself and try and complete his hat-trick.

Instead he offered the ball to Rashford, who duly smashed his effort home. 

Speaking to tennis star Andy Murray during a live video, Rashford explained: "The penalty was between me and Rom I think.  

"But you know Rom is one of those guys who if, well, in that particular game he'd scored two goals already, he could have taken it and got a hat-trick.  

"But he's the kind of guy that when you play in a strike partnership with him, he wants you both to do well and he just threw the ball to me and said you take it. 

"Which of course I was willing to let him take it because it's an opportunity for a hat-trick you know which is obviously a very good achievement. 

"But he just said he wanted me to take it so that was when you just sort of prepare yourself for the moment and just try and relax.  

"You know you think about the times that you've practiced, and you want your head to be focused." 

Rashford also opened up on how the attention he received off the pitch after bursting onto the scene as a teenager was initially a struggle. 

"I can't say I've ever really enjoyed the attention off the pitch," he added. "That's one thing growing up as a footballer that you never think about. 

"You always think about playing in the first team and scoring goals for United or at Old Trafford or any stadium. But you forget how your life can change overnight. 

"Things that you can do with your friends, things that you can do with your family, the places you can go, it all changes. 

"And I probably wasn't as prepared for that bit as I was the actual going on the pitch and playing. 

"For me that bit was the easier bit. It obviously took a lot of hard work to get there but when the opportunity came up I felt ready to step up." 

Rashford scored twice on debut against Midtjylland in a Europa League tie in February 2016 before marking his Premier League bow against Arsenal with another brace three days later. 

"I remember a couple of months before my debut I was on the bench and at that moment I didn't feel ready. I didn't feel like I belonged in the first team," said Rashford, who credited ex-boss Louis van Gaal for thrusting him into action at the right time. 

"You know that's why timing is so important. I wasn't ready to play that game so I think the manager knew what he was doing at the time. 

"Van Gaal is very experienced with young players and he wanted to wait for the right time. 

"When I made my debut it just felt natural, it just felt like I was playing with my normal team-mates."

Wayne Rooney feels Manchester United were wrong to sack Louis van Gaal in 2016 after two years at the Old Trafford helm.

Van Gaal was axed in favour of Jose Mourinho shortly after winning the FA Cup, with United having finished outside of the top four in the Premier League.

Under Mourinho, United finished sixth in the final 2016-17 Premier League standings but won both the EFL Cup and Europa League.

Yet Rooney, who was United's captain at the time, insists the club should have given Van Gaal another year to prove he could be a success.

"I was devastated when Louis was sacked," Rooney said in the book 'LVG - The Manager and the Total Person'.

“For me, it was an absolute joy to work with him.

“We should have kept him for a third season. We would have been so much stronger.

"I felt things were improving and players started to understand his vision. In those two years I learned more than under any other manager.

"This is why I will be forever grateful to him. Not just for making me captain, but also for all the trust and belief he had in me.

"We didn't have the best team in the league anyway, but we could not afford to have 12 players injured.

"Our best XI was good enough to play in the top four, but once we got injuries we got in trouble ­because we did not have the same quality in the squad as in the years before.

"At the time it was good for me because I had decided that I wanted to become a manager.

“And working with Louis in that way was priceless in my opinion because I could learn so much from him. I could not have wished for a better example."

Manchester United boast a pair of Manchester derby victories this season on enemy turf at the Etihad Stadium – triumphing 2-1 in the Premier League in December before a 1-0 win was not quite enough to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.

At Old Trafford, though, the recent Premier League history of the fixture has served up a far more unpalatable reality for the Red Devils.

A 2-1 win in 2008 was City's first success at their great rivals' ground for 34 years, but a trio of United wins followed, culminating in Wayne Rooney's unforgettable overhead kick to claim three points on the way to the 2010-11 Premier League title.

Since then it has been a very different story and here we look back at the woeful run of form Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team will hope to overturn in Sunday's league clash.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-6 MANCHESTER CITY (OCTOBER 23, 2011)

The game that emphatically announced a power shift in Manchester was on the cards. Mario Balotelli came, saw, conquered and had the "Why Always Me" T-shirt to prove it with goals either side of forcing Jonny Evans into a red card. Sergio Aguero capped a scintillating team move to make it 3-0 before Darren Fletcher's excellent finish persuaded Alex Ferguson's depleted side to chase the game in foolhardy fashion.

David Silva slotted in to split a brace from substitute Edin Dzeko and a derby demolition was complete. The margin of victory continued to resonate at the end of the campaign as City pipped United to the title on goal difference.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 8, 2013)

Ferguson's side responded to that disappointment with a dominant campaign to earn their boss one more Premier League crown. The destination of the title was already a formality before City arrived for the derby, in which Aguero came off the bench to ram a brilliant solo strike into the roof of the net and settle the match. A Vincent Kompany own goal had briefly cancelled out James Milner's deflected second-half opener.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-3 MANCHESTER CITY (MARCH 25, 2014)

A result that arguably marked the nadir of David Moyes' ill-fated stint as Ferguson's successor. Nine days on from Liverpool easing to a comprehensive 3-0 win at Old Trafford, City followed suit. There was little doubt over the outcome after Dzeko struck in the first minute. The Bosnian star also volleyed in a 56th-minute corner before Yaya Toure contributed to a personal 20-goal tally that proved pivotal to securing the title for Manuel Pellegrini's City.

MANCHESTER UNITED 4-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 12, 2015)

When Aguero tapped in from Silva's pass inside the first 10 minutes, another City procession looked on the cards. But United roared back in ferocious fashion. Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini ensured Louis van Gaal's team were ahead at the break before Juan Mata scampered through a scattered defence to get in on the act and Chris Smalling powered in number four. Aguero's 100th goal in City colours late on was scant consolation.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 MANCHESTER CITY (OCTOBER 25, 2015)

Pellegrini and Van Gaal departed at the end of the 2015-16 season with their sides separated in fourth and fifth position respectively by goal difference, claiming hauls of 66 points after failing to win half of their matches. This forgettable stalemate was very much in keeping with that tepid overall offering. United substitute Jesse Lingard hit the crossbar late on.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (SEPTEMBER 10, 2016)

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho stepped into the breach to elevate the Manchester rivalry once more and City threatened to run away with the reunion of the old Clasico foes. Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho established a first-half advantage, but an error by City debutant Claudio Bravo saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic reduce the arrears – paving the way for a tense and combative second half.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (DECEMBER 10, 2017)

Having competed at a distance from champions Chelsea in 2016-17, City and United were the frontrunners this time around. Set-piece frailties from the hosts saw the dominance of Guardiola's team in open play rewarded, with Silva and Nicolas Otamendi the beneficiaries. Marcus Rashford fleetingly had United level, but their rivals opened an 11-point lead at the summit and would go on to win the league with a record-breaking 100 points.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 24, 2019)

City were being pushed all the way to glory by Liverpool last season and tension in the ranks was clear during a goalless first half. Bernardo Silva found the breakthrough and substitute Leroy Sane blasted through David de Gea's near-post efforts to ensure Solskjaer's first outing as a coach in the fixture ended in defeat.

--

Carrington, December 31, 2009. Alex Ferguson is spending his birthday, again, looking out at the training pitches.

United have just thrashed Wigan Athletic 5-0 to move to within two points of leaders Chelsea. They won't win the league this season. But they did the last. And they will the next.

Ferguson has no idea what will come in the next decade. Failure for United is second place, not three years without a trophy. The idea of three seasons out of the Champions League is preposterous. Finishing seventh is unimaginable. It's Manchester United, for goodness' sake.

There is no way they could get to that point. Someone would notice. Someone would do something.

--

FERGIE TIME RUNS OUT

The years between 2009 and 2020 will forever mark United's crashing fall from their perch, unable to extricate themselves from a cesspool of anti-Glazer protests, mismanaged managers, dividends and transfer misfires.

The signs were there for Ferguson, even as he lifted the Premier League for the 13th time in 2013. Manchester City had been spending hitherto unseen sums to revolutionise what it meant to run a football club, while only four United signings between January 2010 and that day in May - Robin van Persie, David de Gea, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez - can be considered entirely successful.

United underestimated City, as they underestimated Ferguson's power to turn average teams into winners and the damage of losing CEO David Gill at the same time as the manager. Any fear about David Moyes and the longer-term future was dismissed as idle scaremongering, an inconvenient truth to be squashed under silverware.

The result is there are matchgoing United fans born this decade who have never seen them get close to winning the league. Hearing grown-ups talk of Moscow, Barcelona, trebles, double-doubles and '20 times, Man United' must sound like a Netflix fantasy series. It's not hard to imagine a seven-year-old gazing up at the Alex Ferguson statue, outside the Alex Ferguson stand, and turning to her parents to shake her head in defiant incredulity, much like a future child staring at the world's last surviving polar bear at the zoo might exclaim: "But, mummy, the arctic was never REALLY frozen over, was it?"

--

Carrington, December 31, 2019. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks out at the training pitches.

Marcus Rashford and team-mates have been hard at work, buoyed by a battling win at Burnley but thinking of Arsenal on New Year's Day. The mood is positive, but trepidation lurks in their minds. They are fifth in the Premier League and were never even in the title race. The next setback never feels far away.

Solskjaer sighs, pensively. It wasn't always like this.

--

'WE WILL LOOK BACK ON IT AS A GIGANTIC FALSE ALARM'

Solskjaer the United manager is the product of three failures.

First came The Chosen One in 2013. David Moyes was Ferguson's preference, had worked wonders at Everton and earned a chance on a grander stage.

Moyes later said he was promised Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas for his first season by new executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, while Cristiano Ronaldo had also been a target. It was a bold statement from one new man to another, a chest-out assurance United would swat away the competition. What Moyes got was deadline-day Marouane Fellaini, an elbow-flailing augur of doom.

Moyes bemoaned a lack of world-class players as United suffered their worst start to a league season for 24 years. By Christmas, fans were disquieted. By March, home humiliations against Liverpool and City had them angry. After plane banner protests and a 2-0 loss to Everton, Moyes was gone, nine months into a six-year contract.

United's aura had splintered like an ice shelf. They needed a real expert, a man of facts, figures and a matchday folder.

In came Louis van Gaal on a wave of positivity after taking Netherlands to third place at the World Cup. Woodward, having almost failed to sign anybody the year before, tried to sign everybody. In came British record signing Angel Di Maria and pricey loanee Radamel Falcao in a huge squad upheaval. The 'Gaalacticos' had assembled. United fans found their belief. Then, Van Gaal lost his.

A 5-3 defeat to Leicester City, noteworthy for a sublime Di Maria goal and the beginning of the end of Tyler Blackett's Premier League career, seemed to shake the manager's faith in how to play matches. Over the next 18 months, his team would shrink from 'attack, attack, attack' like a melting glacier, the players terrified of trying anything that might prompt one of those telling-off emails from Van Gaal. It seemed amazing Van Gaal's team could be so predictable, so boring when the man himself was a source of constant entertainment, decrying "sex-masochism" on live television, diving on the touchline against Arsenal and presenting the press with mulled wine, mince pies and "Mr Mike Smalling".

A single, short Champions League campaign and an FA Cup triumph were not enough. Leicester (Leicester!) had won the league and Pep Guardiola was going to City. This was a full-blown crisis. United put up the flood defences.

TO THE TIPPING POINT

"I want everything: I want to win matches; I want to play well," Jose Mourinho vowed in 2016. United spent big again on Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the best players in Italy, France and Germany the previous season. In 2016-17, they won the EFL Cup and Europa League but only finished sixth in the league, and Mourinho was not wholly content. United still had obvious concerns; they denied them.

United were second in 2017-18, their highest league position since their last title, as champions City obliterated the record books. Mourinho waspishly claimed it was his greatest achievement. He had begun warring with Woodward over transfers, sniping Pogba and Anthony Martial in training, and sulking through news conferences in which he said as little as possible when he wasn't reminding the room how good he used to be.

Mourinho's verbal microplastics had seeped into Old Trafford and turned it toxic. A 3-1 loss at Anfield was the last straw. Desperate, United put the battle for their very future in the hands of a bright-eyed, baby-faced Scandinavian and an emboldened band of youngsters up for the fight.

"There have been ups and downs," was Solskjaer's assessment last week, with stunning early form and a famous win in Paris undermined by 2019 defeats to Everton, Bournemouth, Watford, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City. But with six wins in eight, victories over City, Chelsea (twice) and Tottenham and the chance of trophies in early 2020, maybe, at last, United have taken decisive action.

"I think we're on the right track," he added. " We will come strong this decade, definitely. That's just in the nature of this club."

Nature can be fickle, though.

--

Carrington, December 31, 2029. The Manchester United manager looks out at the training pitches.

Led by captain Marcus Rashford, player spirits are high. They're the champions of Europe and top of the league. It's been a good 10 years.

The manager sighs. It wasn't always like this. Manchester used to be cold in December.

Even if Hansi Flick's time in charge of Bayern Munich is short, he is not likely to forget his first Bundesliga match.

The 54-year-old, who was placed in interim charge of the first team after Niko Kovac agreed it was better for all concerned if he walked away, will take on Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Flick oversaw a 2-0 win against Olympiacos in the Champions League on Wednesday, but his opening league match is a very different kind of fixture. Bayern are a point behind Dortmund after 10 matches and four adrift of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, so a win really is paramount.

With Dortmund having found a bit of form recently it's a hard game to predict and, as we can see, Bayern coaches have had mixed fortunes in the modern era when it comes to their first league Klassikers...

 

Ottmar Hitzfeld: Bayern Munich 2-2 Borussia Dortmund, 04/10/1998

Hitzfeld had huge success in charge of each of these teams, so perhaps it's fitting his first Klassiker as Bayern coach ended in a draw.

Stephane Chapuisat put Dortmund ahead, Bayern turned it around with two goals in a minute from Giovane Elber and Carsten Jancker, but Christian Nerlinger forced a draw.

Hitzfeld took over at Bayern again in 2007 for a little over a year, and that first Klassiker ended goalless. You can't say he wasn't fair.

Felix Magath: Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Bayern Munich, 18/09/2004

Another 2-2 draw, although this one was a touch more dramatic.

Ewerthon's double had Dortmund ahead, but Lucio halved the deficit in the 88th minute and Roy Makaay snatched a point in stoppage time. It was a springboard to back-to-back domestic doubles for Magath.

Jurgen Klinsmann: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich, 23/08/2008

Bayern won the DFB-Pokal final against Dortmund after extra time under Hitzfeld four months earlier, but the teams could not be separated here.

BVB, now under a certain Jurgen Klopp, took an early lead through Jakub Blaszczykowski but were pegged back by Tim Borowski in the second half. Klinsmann, meanwhile, was gone the following April.

 

Louis van Gaal: Borussia Dortmund 1-5 Bayern Munich, 12/09/2009

This was more like it.

Jupp Heynckes took temporary charge before Van Gaal became Klinsmann's permanent successor, and he laid down a marker with this Dortmund demolition.

Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and a Thomas Muller double made sure Mats Hummels' opener was swiftly forgotten. Only Jose Mourinho's Inter stopped Bayern winning the treble that season.

 

Jupp Heynckes: Bayern Munich 0-1 Borussia Dortmund, 19/11/2011

Andries Jonker took temporary charge after Van Gaal's exit before Heynckes got the gig on a full-time basis.

His first Klassiker was settled by a Mario Gotze strike that helped Dortmund stay on course for a league and cup double that season. Of course, Heynckes would get substantial revenge when he won the treble by beating Dortmund in the Champions League final just 18 months later.

 

Pep Guardiola: Borussia Dortmund 0-3 Bayern Munich, 23/11/2013

Guardiola had big shoes to fill when he replaced the popular Heynckes. Following a 4-2 loss when the teams met in the DFL-Supercup, a convincing Klassiker win before December was a smart way to go about things.

Gotze broke the deadlock against his old club before Robben and Muller settled things late on. Almost inevitably, Bayern won the double that season.

Carlo Ancelotti: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayern Munich, 19/11/2016

Despite his past achievements and his air of amiability, it just didn't click between Ancelotti and Bayern.

Losing to Dortmund courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal didn't help his cause, and although he won the title in his only full season, he was out the door by September 2017.

Jupp Heynckes: Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Bayern Munich, 04/11/2017

Interim boss Willy Sagnol never got to tackle a Klassiker, so Heynckes was given another chance to cement his legacy as an Allianz Arena hero.

He didn't disappoint. Robben, Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba put the game to bed before Marc Bartra's consolation, and Heynckes' fourth Bundesliga title as Bayern coach followed at the end of the season.

 

Niko Kovac: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Bayern Munich, 10/11/2018

Kovac certainly served up a treat in his first Klassiker - it's just a shame it wasn't one Bayern fans could stomach.

Lewandowski goals were twice cancelled out by Marco Reus before Paco Alcacer settled a thriller. Another domestic double followed for Bayern, but Kovac would still be gone within a year.

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