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Time has come for Van Gaal to make Old Trafford dream again

18 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Time has come for Van Gaal to make Old Trafford dream again

Having lacked sparkle so far this season, United must show their class against Brugge if they are to conjure up more magical European nights

The last time that Manchester United contested a European game at Old Trafford was on April Fools’ Day 2014.

While the result that night saw a creditable 1-1 draw with then-reigning champions Bayern Munich, there can be no doubt that only a win will do against Club Brugge tomorrow evening if the Red Devils are not to be left red-faced.

With David Moyes losing his job three weeks later after failing to guide United back into Europe for the first time in 19 years, much has changed since that quarter-final exit two seasons ago.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, who both scored and got sent off for the Germans that night, is now of course a United player – just one of a host of star names to arrive at Old Trafford since Louis van Gaal took charge little more than a year ago.

And, having overseen a staggering outlay of over £200m during that time, the Dutchman now faces his defining moment.

After recently admitting that he may not extend his stay in Manchester beyond the end of next season, time is already against Van Gaal when it comes to developing this side enough to add a Premier League title to his long list of accolades.

His legacy will surely therefore depend on bringing Champions League nights back to the Theatre of Dreams on a regular basis and re-establishing United among Europe’s elite.

To do that, he must mould his array of dazzling individuals into a cohesive attacking unit – and fast.

So far United have been clinical but clunky, registering just three shots on target in their two 1-0 wins over Spurs and Villa.

But while there is all the time in the world for Van Gaal to hone the talent at his disposal domestically, he can afford no slip-ups against Brugge on Tuesday night.

Despite chasing their first Champions’ League group stage qualification since 2005, the Belgians are no fools when it comes to excelling in Europe.

Last season saw them go on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Europa League on their way to the quarter-finals, where they eventually lost to eventual winners Dnipro.

During that spell, they kept nine clean sheets and scored two or more goals in six of their eight games away from home – and are priced at 17/4 to do so again at Old Trafford.

They earned the chance to make their mark on the Champions League this season after finishing top of the Belgian Pro League – conceding the joint fewest number of goals and scoring 15 more than any other side – only to eventually be outdone by Genk in the play-offs.

They may be missing seven players through injury, but with influential striker Tom de Sutter – who is 5/1 to score at any time on Tuesday after delaying his transfer to Bursaspor in order to play in the tie – Brugge can spring a surprise if given the chance.

It is vital therefore that United seize the initiative and keep the Belgians pinned back with a display full of attacking verve and vigour reminiscent of former European nights at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney may have looked a little rusty thus far in his role as central striker, but he ought to get enough chances against the underdogs to blow those cobwebs away – and is 6/1 to score in both halves and 16/1 to net a hat-trick.

Meanwhile, Juan Mata – arguably United’s stand-out performer so far – is 19/4 to score first in a home win and Memphis Depay – their most expensive acquisition of the summer – is 4/1 to do the same and open his account for his new club.

Van Gaal’s task during his first year in charge was simple: to finish in the top four. Do that, said the theory, and everything else would follow.

If he wants to be remembered as the man who restored United to former glories, the time has come to start putting that theory into practice.

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