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Football: Confident Van Gaal hits back at critics

Louis van Gaal attempted to quash criticism of Manchester United's dismal start to the season by insisting he is the right man to restore the fallen giants to their former glory.

LONDON: Louis van Gaal attempted to quash criticism of Manchester United's dismal start to the season by insisting he is the right man to restore the fallen giants to their former glory.

United are still waiting for their first victory under Van Gaal after losing to Swansea, drawing with Sunderland and then suffering an abject 4-0 humiliation against League One minnows Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup second round in midweek.

Van Gaal shattered the British transfer record with his £59.7 million (S$123.7 million, US$98 million) signing of Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid this week as he continued a major overhaul which has exceeded £130 million since he took charge. Di Maria should get his first taste of the Premier League at some stage during United's trip to Burnley on Saturday, but Van Gaal isn't expecting instant miracles from the Argentina midfielder.

Instead, the former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands coach made it clear his glittering CV deserves respect and patience as he rebuilds following David Moyes's ill-fated reign. "I have read your articles and I was the king in the United States (where Van Gaal won five consecutive matches on tour)," he said during a feisty pre-match press conference. "Now I am not, but I am the same Louis van Gaal with the same record and same philosophy. When I started with the Dutch national team (in 2012) no-one believed we could qualify (for the World Cup). After that they said we wouldn't have any chance to get through the group stage, and after that (they said) 'we'll lose against every opponent' but we reached the semi-finals."

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Di Maria won't be the only high-profile debutant this weekend as controversial bad-boy Mario Balotelli makes his return to the Premier League when his new club Liverpool travel to leaders Tottenham. Balotelli joined Brendan Rodgers' side from AC Milan for £16 million after agreeing to a contract that will reward the Italian for good behaviour.

The former Manchester City forward left England after three turbulent years marred by training ground fights, car crashes and a bizarre incident when he set fire to his bathroom while letting off fireworks. But Reds boss Rodgers is confident he can get the best out of Balotelli, who watched from the stands when Liverpool lost 3-1 at City on Monday, but is expected to be involved at White Hart Lane.

"I am excited to work with him, he's a player of massive quality," Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen said. "He has that spontaneous edge to him and it is a massive threat he's going to give us. We are disappointed with Monday's result but all of us are excited for the chance to put things right."

Chelsea have a 100 per cent record, but those wins came against newly-promoted Burnley and Leicester, making Saturday's trip to Everton the first serious test of the Blues' title credentials.

Jose Mourinho's side, who are set to part company with Fernando Torres after the Spanish flop agreed a loan move to AC Milan, are likely to come up against one or both of their former strikers Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto'o at Goodison Park. Lukaku, who hopes to recover from a toe injury, and Eto'o, who could make his debut after joining this week, were both allowed to leave Chelsea by Mourinho and Blues captain John Terry knows the old boys will be out for revenge.

"We've struggled away to Everton in the last couple of years," Terry said. "With that in mind we know it's going to be tough. Obviously big Rom (Lukaku) will be up front as well, with a point to prove -- him being sold from the club. They are going to be up for it. It's a big test for us."

Champions City are also off to a 100 per cent start and will expect to maintain their winning record at home to Stoke, while Arsenal travel to Leicester on Sunday buoyed by their Champions League play-off victory over Besiktas in midweek.

Neil Warnock begins his second spell in charge of Crystal Palace with a trip to Newcastle.

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