• Van Gaal bullish despite Pedro snub

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    LONDON: Louis van Gaal is adamant Manchester United remain on course for a successful season despite Pedro Rodriguez’s decision to snub a move to Old Trafford in favor of joining Chelsea.

    Van Gaal had hoped to unveil Barcelona winger Pedro as his latest new recruit this week after United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward flew to Spain to finalize the deal.

    But the Spain international had a late change of heart and opted for a switch to Premier League champions Chelsea instead.

    It was another transfer blow for United manager van Gaal, who also recently missed out on top defensive target Sergio Ramos after the Spaniard decided to stay at Real Madrid.

    But van Gaal sees no reason to panic because fourth placed United, who host Newcastle on Saturday, have won their first two league fixtures and also defeated Club Brugge 3-1 in a Champions League play-off first leg tie in midweek.

    “You have to wait to see. It’s not any pressure for me. We have 28 players. We did it last season without Pedro,” van Gaal said when asked if he would keep looking for new signings.

    Liverpool midfielder James Milner claims Monday’s clash with Arsenal is the perfect opportunity to test his side’s improvement since last season.

    Brendan Rodgers’ team have been widely written off as also-rans in this season’s title race after limping to a sixth place finish that saw the Reds trail in 25 points behind champions Chelsea last term.

    But they have made a quietly encouraging start and head to the Emirates stadium in third place after grinding out 1-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth.

    Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 home defeat against West Ham before getting back on track with a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.

    And Milner, a close-season signing from Manchester City, believes Liverpool will get the kind of stern examination in north London that should indicate how much they need to improve to challenge for the title.

    “They look sharp,” Milner said. “They had a disappointing result in their first game against West Ham but they are a quality team and will want to bounce back from that and try to get their run going.”

    Composed
    Rocked by their surprise loss to West Ham, Arsenal looked more composed and clinical against Palace and German defender Per Mertesacker has revealed how clear-the-air talks helped them kick-start their campaign.

    “Obviously when everything goes very smooth in pre-season, you avoid those talks. But there was a need for it when we came out of the (West Ham) match,” he said.

    “You could already feel something when you are in the relegation zone, and not having produced what everyone expected from you, so it was important to bounce back.”

    Arsenal’s early inconsistency is nothing in comparison to the dismal start made by Chelsea, who have endured their worst opening for 17 years after a 2-2 draw against Swansea and then a 3-0 thrashing at Manchester City.

    AFP

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