Football: Van Gaal has sympathy with Rodgers' problems

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (right) and assistant Ryan Giggs chat ahead of their team's English Premier League soccer match against West Bromwich Albion on Oct 20, 2014. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has sympathy for L
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (right) and assistant Ryan Giggs chat ahead of their team's English Premier League soccer match against West Bromwich Albion on Oct 20, 2014. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has sympathy for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers after the Reds' poor start to the season. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has sympathy for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers after the Reds' poor start to the season.

United meet arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, with van Gaal's side seeking to extend their wining run to six matches.

Liverpool, who finished second in the Premier League last season, are currently ninth in the table and crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday with a 1-1 home draw with Basel.

Rodgers has come in for criticism during Liverpool's poor run.

But, like United, Liverpool have also had to cope with injuries to key players, including losing striker Mario Balotelli to a hamstring strain on Nov 8.

"The last matches of Liverpool they were a little bit unlucky," van Gaal said on Friday.

"You have to survive that as a manager. We have managed our last five matches despite our list of injuries and I'm pleased by that.

"You have to give as a manager a lot of credit to the players because it is not so easy.

"The Premier League is not so easy. Every game that we have, even against bottom of the league, is very difficult to beat."

GIGGS PLAYS HIS PART

Sunday will be van Gaal's first match in charge of United against Liverpool - who he almost joined as director of football two years ago.

The Dutchman revealed that assistant manger Ryan Giggs, a veteran of many clashes with Liverpool during his 24-year playing career, had played a significant part in preparing the team for the match.

"As an assistant manager I have Ryan Giggs and he presented the analysis of Liverpool and he did it in a marvellous way - I'm very pleased," van Gaal said.

"I will not tell you (what it included) but I can assure you that it was marvellous."

Van Gaal confirmed Colombian striker Radamel Falcao would be available, leaving Chris Smalling, Angel di Maria, Luke Shaw and Danny Blind as the main absentees.

Falcao is likely to be named among the substitutes, with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie starting in attack.

Dutch striker Van Persie has scored three goals in his last three appearances.

Michael Carrick seems certain to retain his place in the team - either in midfield or as a makeshift central defender.

The injury to Smalling could mean Carrick drops into defence if van Gaal chooses to maintain the 3-5-2 shape used in the 2-1 victory over Southampton on Monday.

"It's very important that he can play in midfield and defence, especially when we have a list of defenders injured. Because of him we have more balance," van Gaal said.

Despite the victory, United attracted criticism for their performance against Southampton, particularly from former captain Gary Neville working in his role as a television pundit.

Neville said that he thought Sunday's match would be like a fixture between two pub teams, but van Gaal said he would ignore that viewpoint.

"I don't think somebody living outside the community of Manchester United can judge how we are doing. It's based on no facts," van Gaal said.

"I analyse everything we're doing and there's no facts. I'm not listening to the English television."