Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has ordered the club to abandon their plans to have a final pre-season game on the eve of their Premier League kickoff.
The Red Devils played Valencia four days prior to their season opener against Swansea City last year and lost 2-1 at home in Van Gaal’s maiden competitive match in charge.
United went on to collect just 13 points from their first 10 league games and were emphatically dumped out of the Capital One Cup by third-tier MK Dons as they endured a slow start.
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Van Gaal is keen to avoid a repeat scenario this year and has therefore decided that United’s preparations for the new campaign will not include a late curtain-raiser at a packed Old Trafford.
“I asked the board for us not to play the week before our first Premier League match,” the Dutchman is quoted by The Mirror as saying. “Last year we played against Valencia a few days before we had to play Swansea City and that was too much.
“Therefore they have permitted that we don’t play one week before the first game as that match is very important. We want to win it this time and I hope we can start very well.”
This represents a shrewd move from Van Gaal, who will know that his side cannot give themselves the same mountain to climb if they are to mount a genuine title challenge in 2015-16.
The Manchester giants were already 13 points adrift of leaders and eventual champions Chelsea after 10 games last term. They picked up only four points fewer than the Blues throughout the remainder of the campaign as they stayed on title pace.
And United’s start to the season is tough enough without an extra game on their calendar. The Red Devils host Tottenham Hotspur in a tricky opener and will also have a two-legged Champions League qualifier before the end of August.
Swansea City, Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal and Manchester City follow in a demanding early run of fixtures which includes all of the rest of last season’s top eight apart from Chelsea.
A clear week ahead of the first whistle will allow Van Gaal’s squad to recharge after the last game of their pre-season tour of America – against Paris St Germain in Chicago on July 30.
The question that transfer-itchy United fans are asking is: ‘Who will be in the squad by then?’