Van Gaal has no more excuses

Left: Big stars who join Manchester United, such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, will find that reputation counts for little at Old Trafford, if they cannot perform, warns Peter Schmeichel. Below: Schmeichel at the launch of the club's new adidas kit at K
Big stars who join Manchester United, such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, will find that reputation counts for little at Old Trafford, if they cannot perform, warns Peter Schmeichel.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Left: Big stars who join Manchester United, such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, will find that reputation counts for little at Old Trafford, if they cannot perform, warns Peter Schmeichel. Below: Schmeichel at the launch of the club's new adidas kit at K
Schmeichel at the launch of the club's new adidas kit at Kallang Wave mall.PHOTO: ADIDAS SINGAPORE

Schmeichel expects United to vie for EPL title, after spending a huge sum on new players

Despite splurging more than £250 million (S$536 million) on 11 new players since taking over last year, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal claims his squad still lack pace, creativity and a prolific goal threat.

The wily Dutchman may be trying to buy time from fans desperate for a return to winning ways - but club legend Peter Schmeichel is not buying it.

When asked whether a top-three finish in the English Premier League (EPL) - an improvement from fourth last season - will suffice, the former goalkeeper told The Sunday Times emphatically: "Absolutely not. I expect us to compete for the title."

Even at 51, the Dane retains the forthright and feisty persona which made him a feared presence in the United goal and a firm favourite in the stands.

Twice named the world's best goalkeeper (1992 and 1993), he even bristled at a suggestion that Germany's Manuel Neuer has revolutionised the position with his footwork and distribution.

NO GOOD TO HAVE A STALEMATE

David is an absolute star at United and I think he enjoys playing there - but home is calling and we must respect that... We need to have the situation resolved so everyone can move on.

PETER SCHMEICHEL, former United goalkeeper, on uncertainty surrounding current custodian David de Gea

"I don't understand why people keep saying that," the Gladsaxe native said with a sardonic laugh.

"Neuer is the best there is today, no doubt.

"But I played that way too, always trying to push my team forward from the edge of the box."

Speaking of world-class goalkeepers, Schmeichel lauded Chelsea for showing "a lot of respect" to Petr Cech by facilitating his move to title rivals Arsenal.

Schmeichel, a five-time EPL winner, quickly added: "Everyone is saying this will be Arsenal's year but I'm not so sure - they need more than a goalkeeper."

No one is going to argue against a 1.91-metre man-mountain who was at Kallang Wave mall yesterday to launch United's new home jersey.

It is the first under a 10-year, £750 million partnership with German sportswear giant adidas.

The world-record kit sponsorship deal is nearly double that of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Arsenal's own tie-ups.

Schmeichel noted: "The power of the Manchester United brand has been restored.

"With deals like this, the club has the financial muscle to get the world's best players."

Top targets like forward Gareth Bale and defender Mats Hummels may have been missed but Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dutch sensation Memphis Depay headline a promising list of recent arrivals.

However, Schmeichel - who was also part of the Red Devils' 1999 Treble-winning outfit - insisted that past reputations count for little and that players must be up for the fight when playing for United.

"One thing is to come in as a big name, another thing is to go out and perform and fulfil the expectations of United fans who are used to greatness," he warned.

He also cautioned his former employers against playing hardball with goalkeeper David de Gea, who is refusing to sign a new contract amid strong interest from hometown club Real Madrid.

"David is an absolute star at United and I think he enjoys playing there - but home is calling and we must respect that," said the former Denmark international.

"Another top team want him.

"We need to have the situation resolved so everyone can move on."

The Spaniard's replacement could come from Leicester City where Schmeichel's 28-year-old son Kasper played a key role in helping the club stave off relegation.

The proud father said: "Kasper has proven for club and country that he's ready for the highest level.

"If he maintains his form, he can be the most famous Schmeichel around."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'VAN GAAL HAS NO MORE EXCUSES'. Print Edition | Subscribe