Manchester United are feeling the pressure ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Club Bruges on Tuesday, according to manager Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman, who has guided his team to two successive Premier League wins at the start of the season, is expecting a difficult first leg against the Belgians at Old Trafford as United try to return to the group stages of the competition.
“There is a lot of pressure because our aim and goal is to reach the Champions League,” Van Gaal told a news conference on Monday.
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“These kind of matches are difficult. Bruges can defend very well and they can also attack.”
United, European Cup champions three times, will be without England defender Phil Jones because of what the manager described as “not an injury, more of an illness, and it is getting better”.
Belgian international Marouane Fellaini, who is serving a suspension in the Premier League, is set to return to boost an attack in which England captain Wayne Rooney has struggled as a lone striker in 1-0 wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.
Van Gaal said he was surprised by the widespread concerns expressed about Rooney’s form.
“I think all the media has written for one year that I have to put him in the striker’s position,” added the Dutchman.
“It is amazing that after two matches you are doubting your own opinion.”
United were not involved in the Champions League last season, having failed to qualify when they finished seventh in the Premier League in 2013-14.
“We have a long way to go this season but we have had a better start than last year and also two clean sheets,” said Van Gaal. “I have confidence that we will develop ourselves to a much higher level.”
Asked about the mental state of Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea, who has not been selected yet this season, he refused to supply an answer.
“It is not a good question,” he said. “I don’t answer the question.”
Van Gaal has indicated that he will not pick the 24-year-old De Gea, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, until the transfer window closes next month.