LONDON • Louis van Gaal believes Manchester United and Liverpool supporters should not "live in the past", after facing questions about their Europa League tie being a reflection of the diminished status of the two English clubs.
He insisted he was "happy" for the 20-time Premier League champions to be involved in the new, convoluted version of the Uefa Cup. And he would not accept it was unsatisfactory for two clubs who have won the European Cup a combined total of eight times to be involved in a competition that has rarely been embraced by the top English clubs.
English football's two most successful sides meet in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Anfield tonight.
Pointing to the cyclical nature of the sport, the United manager acknowledged that the Europa League was not hugely popular in England, but also made it clear that he did not like the frequency with which people referred back to better times for the country's two most successful football teams.
"In football, it is normal," van Gaal replied when asked a question of what it said about the status of the two clubs.
"It is not normal that one team are dominating for 20 years in a row as champions. How many titles have Liverpool won and how many titles Manchester United? It was another time... You live in the past and you have to live in the present."
A LONG TIME AGO
It is not normal that one team are dominating for 20 years in a row as champions. How many titles have Liverpool won and how many titles Manchester United? It was another time.
LOUIS VAN GAAL, Manchester United manager.
The present has not meant a great deal of enjoyment for United supporters since Alex Ferguson left and it was pointed out to van Gaal that there was a negative perception of the Europa League.
"Yes, I have noticed that you have a negative view," he said. "But you have noticed against Midtjylland (in the previous round) there were 58,000 fans at Old Trafford, so the fans of Manchester United are appreciating it. How many fans do you think there will be against Liverpool (in the second leg)? I think 75,000. And I also think Liverpool will be sold out.
"That is what I have to say - it is very important for both teams."
Today's match will have added significance and not only because winning the Europa League appears the best chance for either side to compete in next season's Champions League, with both clubs languishing outside the Premier League's top four.
Never before in Liverpool's 124-year history have the Reds suffered five straight defeats at the hands of their arch-rivals. Yet that could be a possibility at Anfield.
United did a league double over Liverpool last season, winning 3-0 at home and 2-1 away. They also claimed both league meetings this season, a 3-1 win at Old Trafford being followed by a 1-0 victory on Merseyside in the reverse fixture.
"I think we owe them from the Premier League games, which we probably should have got more out of," Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne told the club's website. "We need to take it to them, especially in the first leg when we're at home.
"Try to get some goals but also keep a clean sheet, which is the most important thing."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
LIVERPOOL V MANCHESTER UNITED
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