• Premier League

Louis Van Gaal wasn't prepared for Premier League, says Brendan Rodgers

ESPN staff
March 21, 2015
Can Manchester United slow Liverpool down?

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal may have been surprised by the Premier League, according to his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers.

The two managers go head-to-head at Anfield on Sunday in a match that is likely to have a significant bearing on Champions League qualification. United go into the weekend's fixtures occupying the Premier League's fourth and final qualification spot, but are only two points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool.

Van Gaal has faced a testing first season at Old Trafford, but is on course to guide them back into the top four after they finished seventh last season.

The Dutchman has coached Holland to last year's World Cup semifinals, as well as managing leading European clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but this season has been new territory for him, according to Rodgers.

Liverpool's manager said: "Even he would say that coming into the Premier League is different to where he's worked before. The competition in this country is far greater.

"He's shown over his career that he's a top-class manager. He'll have seen coming into this country for the first time, the challenges of football here.

"This is the most competitive league in the world. If you've spent your career in the Premier League, it's different to the other leagues.

"But I don't think you can argue about his credentials. He's put philosophies in place at Ajax, Barcelona and AZ. If he ever leaves United, he'll still have been one of the great managers.

"Manchester United will look to continue to stay in that top four. For us, the challenge is to get above them and into that top four."

Striker Mario Balotelli is fit to return after missing Monday's 1-0 victory at Swansea with an illness.

Balotelli is likely to be on the bench, having not started a league game for Liverpool since Nov. 8. Rodgers said: "Mario was ill -- he was off for nine days. He's just started training again over the last couple of days. He's feeling much better."

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