• Premier League

Manchester United must keep their cool against Liverpool, says Van Gaal

ESPN staff
March 21, 2015
The ESPN FC panel previews Manchester United's trip to Liverpool

Louis van Gaal has been teaching his Manchester United players how to control their aggression in training as he does not want them to see red in their grudge match against Liverpool on Sunday.

The meeting between two of the biggest clubs in England is statistically the second most volatile fixture in the calendar after the Merseyside derby.

Since the Premier League began, 15 red cards have been dished out in Liverpool-United matches, with the latest one coming last season when Nemanja Vidic was sent off at Old Trafford last year. Remarkably, it was his fourth dismissal in eight years against Liverpool.

Chris Smalling and Angel di Maria have been sent off in high-profile matches against Manchester City and Arsenal this year.

And Van Gaal has been playing the role of a stern referee in training in order to test their temperament as he knows defeat would cost his team a place in the top four.

"I have mentioned that," said the United manager when asked how important it was to keep 11 players on the pitch.

"Also I am the referee in the games that we have had in the training pitch and I have whistled at the way that they have to control their aggression, for example -- to prepare already the atmosphere. And I have mentioned that to them after lunch. Control of emotion is also a talent."

United head into the match full of confidence after they recorded a 3-0 win over Tottenham which consolidated their grip on fourth.

After eight months of trying, everything finally clicked into place for Van Gaal's men last weekend.

They played with width, pace and flair as they swept three goals past Hugo Lloris in little over 35 minutes.

Van Gaal was delighted with his team's performance, but he says it will count for nothing unless his men beat fifth-placed Liverpool.

"We played very good in the first half and it was also good to have an evaluation that is very positive," the Dutchman said.

"It's also good for the players. But it says nothing when you lose the next match.

"But the next match is against Liverpool and Liverpool is not the ground that Manchester United has won a lot [at] so when we show it again in Liverpool then we are a little bit further [along], I believe."

Van Gaal, as ever, has done his homework. United's record at Anfield is not so great.

United have only one once there in their last seven games. And Van Gaal has been reminded by Ryan Giggs and club cook Mike Donnelly that he must not lose.

"I have always my assistant manager [Giggs] to say that to me," Van Gaal said.

"He said that also to the players in his presentation of the analysis of Liverpool but I also have the cook, Mike, and he is saying that every day to the players and to me.

"I like that because that shows that it is a very particular match especially for the fans of Manchester United and it helps also to focus and concentrate on this match."

Van Gaal must decide whether to recall Di Maria for the game on Merseyside.

The £59.7 million British record signing was absent for the win over Spurs thanks to his dismissal against Arsenal, and in truth they did not miss him much.

Juan Mata performed superbly in his absence but Van Gaal would not reveals whether the former Real Madrid player would be back this weekend.

"I am always looking to the match but also to the training sessions and to the momentum as a lot of people are saying but you have to decide if you continue or not and I cannot say it now," he said.

Robin van Persie remains sidelined by the ankle injury he suffered against Swansea while Marcos Rojo (groin) and Luke Shaw (hamstring) are doubts.

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