Sep 15, 2015

    Familiar faces at play in United v PSV


    AN AIR of familiarity will pervade the Champions League return of PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United when they open their Group B campaign in the Netherlands today.

    There is a strong Dutch connection at the English club, back in the competition after missing out on continental football last season, and manager Louis van Gaal will be up against one of his former players.

    Any battle of wits between van Gaal and Phillip Cocu, who played under him at Barcelona and with the Netherlands national team, is likely to be secondary, however, to the quicker-than-expected return to the Philips Stadium of Memphis Depay.

    The Dutch international scored 22 goals in 30 games for PSV in their title-winning run last season before making a lucrative move, both for him and the Dutch champions, to the Premier League.

    He was a fan favourite at PSV, but played a poor first half for United in Saturday's 3-1 home win over Liverpool before being taken off.

    "Memphis knows by himself that his final pass wasn't good enough. Then you have players on the bench and you can improve the play of your team so that's why I changed. That doesn't mean he doesn't play against PSV Eindhoven, but today he wasn't what I expected," van Gaal said after the game, where the debut goal of teenage signing Anthony Martial attracted the weekend headlines.

    The efficient win for the former Champions League winners should put a lid on questions about van Gaal's methods and reported unhappiness among his players which dominated the build-up to the Liverpool match and which the manager swiftly sought to rebuff.

    PSV are playing in the group phase of the Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

    They are unbeaten this season, two points off the leadership of the league, and warmed up for today's group tie with an emphatic 6-0 win at SC Cambuur.

    Luuk de Jong's first-half hat trick settled the outcome early in a display of the dominance that PSV are expected to deliver in the Dutch championship again this season.