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Moving swiftly on

Van Gaal turns players’ focus to Schalke

Louis van Gaal generally appears to enjoy the coffee he likes to sip when he faces the media at Bayern’s Säbener Strasse facility, but the steaming brew clearly left a bitter taste in the boss’s mouth on Wednesday. The Dutchman listlessly stirred his beverage, only raising the cup to his lips a couple of times during the news conference. “Did you sleep well?” he asked the assembled pressmen, “because I didn’t.”

The previous evening’s 2-0 defeat at home to Girondins Bordeaux and the spectre of a premature exit from the Champions League gave Van Gaal a restless night. He had reviewed the full 90 minutes on DVD until well into the small hours, he reported, contemplating his reaction to the bitter pill of defeat. “What tone do I adopt now? Should we train or not?” These were the questions preying on Van Gaal’s mind.

By the following morning, he had opted for a reasonable tenor in working through the match with his players. “My emotional reaction would be to raise my voice, but that’s not appropriate for an analysis,” the coach explained. “I concentrated on the positives rather than the negatives,” he continued, discovering that most of his squad had had trouble sleeping too. “A lot of the players also watched the game again, and it just made them even more angry.”

Rest day on Thursday

The coach now faces the notoriously tricky task of excising Bordeaux from his troops’ minds and channelling their disappointment into positive energy for the weekend Bundesliga meeting with Schalke. “I have to turn our focus onto Schalke in the space of three days,” said Van Gaal, “but it’s always difficult after a game like yesterday’s. The players are upset and they’ve slept badly, they’re all wound up in their own thoughts.”

Van Gaal has consequently decided to cancel training on Thursday, “so that he players freshen up mentally and turn their attention to Schalke.” By Friday, Bordeaux should have been consigned to the past, with the team fully concentrated on Saturday. “It’s another important game,” acknowledged Van Gaal, “and it’s another one we have to win.”