Luke Shaw (L) and Ander Herrera (C) will hope to play key roles in Louis van Gaal’s plans at Manchester United this season (Photo: Getty Images).
Manchester United’s year of redemption begins on Wednesday night as they kick off their preseason against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (live, FOX Sports 1, 10:30 p.m. ET).
After the disastrous 2013-14 campaign, wherein the then-defending champions slumped to seventh place in the Barclays Premier League, veteran manager Louis van Gaal has replaced David Moyes and will endeavor to bring the Red Devils back to the top.
Ahead of the match, FOX Soccer caught up with United’s two big summer signings, midfielder Ander Herrera and defender Luke Shaw, in the first one-on-one interviews with each player since their transfers.
First up is Ander Herrera, who came over from Athletic Bilbao:
Leander Schaerlaeckens: Ander, what made you want to join Manchester United?
Ander Herrera: “I am in Manchester United because this is maybe the biggest club in the world. Because Man United have given me the possibility to play at the highest level. I am looking forward to playing here because Louis van Gaal is one of the best coaches in the world.”
LS: Have you spoken to van Gaal? What is he expecting from you?
Ander Herrera: “I think that Louis van Gaal wants that all the midfielders to always want to keep the ball, keep possession, to be an offensive team, always want the ball, never… One moment, I am going to search in Internet! [Pause.] One moment… [Pause.] Hide! Never hide from the ball! Always attack, because he thinks Man United supporters want always to win and be an offensive team.”
The Red Devils attempted to sign Ander Herrera last summer but failed to complete the deal, with reports suggesting the transfer had been interfered with by pranksters pretending to act United’s behalf (Photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images).
LS: Does he see you more as an attacking midfielder? Or more of a box-to-box guy?
Ander Herrera: “My qualities, my style is offensive. But I think that I can defend as well. I think that if we want to win, to achieve our objectives, we have to defend with all the team, all the players.”
LS: What is the most important thing United have to do this year to compete for the Premier League?
Ander Herrera: “We have to run like a humble team and be compact and work hard to be a good, professional team. I think Man United has a lot of qualities. If you defend hard, after you will be able to play like a big team.”
Next up, Luke Shaw, the England international who has joined from Southampton and only just turned 19 years old:
Leander Schaerlaeckens: Luke, what made you want to go to United?
Luke Shaw: “United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and no one can disagree with that. In the few days I’ve been here, I’ve seen how big the club is and how massive the fan base is. When I found out Man United were interested in me, it’s something that I didn’t think twice about. I spoke to my agent and I spoke to Southampton as well and said, ‘This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Manchester United.’ It was something that I didn’t want to miss out on.”
LS: You haven’t spoken to van Gaal in much detail yet, but do you have an idea of what he expects from you at left back?
Luke Shaw: “I watched the World Cup and what formation he played and it’s something that does suit my game. He used a 3-5-2 with two wing backs, and that’s how I like to play my game — getting forward. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to. When you play three in the back, with three central defenders behind you, rather than two, it gives you license to get forward more and it’s something that I have in my game, that I like to do.”
Luke Shaw became the world’s most expensive teenager as a result of the transfer to Manchester United this summer (Photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images).
LS: When you played against United last year with Southampton, what were some of the things you saw that need to improve?
Luke Shaw: “It’s hard to say because it was a different manager. It was a different way that they were set up. I’ve spoken to some of the lads and they say it’s completely different now. What I can say is that van Gaal has been here two days and he’s come across really good. He’s straightforward. He wants to win trophies.”
LS: What has he said to the team?
Luke Shaw: “He hasn’t said much. But he has come across saying: ‘We’re doing this my way.’ We’re playing the way he wants to play. And that’s something all lads took on. We want to be back to playing our best. Last season wasn’t the best and hopefully this season we can improve, and for more seasons to come.”
LS: You’ve played just two seasons and there was a massive $46 million transfer fee. What makes you feel you’re ready for this?
Luke Shaw: “Well, like you’ve said, I have played two seasons now in the Premier League. And it doesn’t really put more pressure on me, the transfer fee. It’s something that I try to ignore and just focus on my football. I ignore the social media and the sites going on about my transfer and whatever talk about me there is. There’s only one thing I want to do. I feel I’m ready. I don’t see why I can’t do more at Manchester United.”
LS: What did you learn at the World Cup?
Luke Shaw: “People said there was no point in taking me because there was obviously Ashley Cole [to back up starting left back Leighton Baines, although the veteran didn’t make the team]. But I was sitting on the bench, watching the games. And I was training with the best players in England, and that helped as well. And I got to speak to the manager quite a few times, and it was good to hear what Roy Hodgson said. I was training and I even got a game in, in the last game of the group [stage]. To have played in a World Cup at my age is brilliant and something I want more of.”