Bayern Munich v Manchester United: Louis Van Gaal is not afraid of Wayne Rooney

29 March 2010 06:52
They possess the best stadium in Germany, if not Europe, and lay claim to the country's biggest fan-base. Bayern's trophy cabinet has housed the European Cup four times and their alumni are as celebrated as those of Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester United.

Yet for all the images of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Lothar Matthäus, there is the rare sense of an inferiority complex around the Allianz Arena as Bayern prepare to face United in the Champions League quarter-final first-leg on Tuesday.

 Related ArticlesRooney and Ferdinand fly to MunichUnited and Barcelona look set for rematchBayern look to 'Rib' to fill void left by 'Rob'Premier League down table in pay leagueRobben injury a blow for BayernSport on televisionOutside of Bayern's Saberner Strasse training complex, nobody is willing to risk ridicule by suggesting that Louis van Gaal's team are capable of eliminating United to secure a place in the semi-finals. Even within the club's hierarchy, which is populated by their former greats, fear is the foremost emotion.

Bayern president Beckenbauer applied the 'f' word (fear) to describe the prospect of facing Wayne Rooney, while chairman Rummenigge greeted the pairing with United by claiming the Germans would have to 'exceed our limits' to beat Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

Fortunately for Bayern, self-doubt and trepidation will not reside in the manager's dug-out this evening. Dutch coach Van Gaal, a prickly character at the best of times, appeared indignant at the probing of the German media, who were only interested in how Bayern could stop Rooney and United.

But if Bayern's players are as fired up as their coach, Ferguson should be worried. "I'm not afraid of anybody," Van Gaal declared. "I'm never afraid and never have been. My players are not afraid of anybody either, but we respect their qualities and those of Rooney.

"As a team, we can make it because we also have qualities and I think they are also a bit afraid of my players. I think Sir Alex and his players are maybe a bit afraid.

"But I am happy that you say that we are underdogs. It's the first time I have had that said to me, so I thank you. I understand that we are now not the favourites, so we are allowed to lose."

The grandly named Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal can at least support his fighting talk with a CV that only Ferguson, of his Champions League contemporaries, can surpass. A Champions League winner with Ajax in 1995, Van Gaal has twice endured the pressure of Barcelona and also the impossible job of coaching the myriad temperaments of the Dutch national team.

He is a blue-chip coach and he will not shrink in Ferguson's company this evening, but while his bosses might be happy merely to be on the same pitch as United, Van Gaal is by no means satisfied.

He said: "Bayern are 110 years old, but there are always tendencies in a club and maybe we are happy that we have achieved our goal of getting to the quarter-final.

"That was our goal because that was what the board told me. That was our aim, we've got that, but I want more and so do the players. We are not level one yet. United are level one because they do it on a consistent basis, but we can do it in games if we are at our best.

"Beating United is not easy because the organisation within United is very good. I am jealous of this organisation. If we had it at Bayern, we would be one step further." Rooney, who could yet end Germany's World Cup hopes if England meet their old foes in the second round in South Africa, is the talk of Munich ahead of tonight's game.

His dismantling of Milan in the last round rippled throughout Europe and Van Gaal admits he is the player Bayern must shackle.

Van Gaal said: "Rooney is a super-fussballer and he isn't that old yet. When he was young, I often thought does he have difficulties in his game, but he has really developed as a player.

"He is a great player, always efficient in his actions, and that wasn't the case when he was younger. Rooney is now very difficult to keep out of the game, but it is very important not to concentrate on one player. I can't just think about one player.

"The team comes first and the team has to do well first.United have weaknesses maybe, but we have to score the goals. I have said this many times. Just saying something is not enough."

Van Gaal, an advocate of a Europe-wide salary cap to bring equality to the Champions League, suggests that, if United progress beyond Bayern to reach the final, it will another landmark achievement by Ferguson.

He said: "If United make it to the final, we will again see a fantastic performance of this team and their manager.

"Replacing a player like Cristiano Ronaldo is not easy, but he [Ferguson] does it every year."

Source: Telegraph