Van Gaal braced for crucial United tests

Louis van Gaal refused to play down the importance of Manchester United's UEFA Champions League play-off with Club Brugge.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says his side's UEFA Champions League play-off clashes with Club Brugge will be the most important matches he has faced since taking charge at Old Trafford.

United travel to Belgium for the first leg on Tuesday as Van Gaal seeks to seal a return to the group stage of Europe's premier club competition.

Under the Dutchman's predecessor, David Moyes, United missed out on qualification for the tournament, but Van Gaal secured a play-off tie courtesy of a fourth-place finish last term.

Asked whether the two games against Brugge were the most important of his United tenure to date, Van Gaal told reporters: "Of course, I have explained that the players want the Champions League and the board want it but especially the fans.

"So the pressure is high. We have to show our quality against a good team - you cannot say there's no pressure, it's not an easy game.

"There is a lot of pressure because our aim and goal is to reach the Champions League. Because of the draw, it is much more difficult. We have drawn Brugge, they can defend very well and can attack also.

"It shall be a difficult match and the pressure is high. The fans and the board want to participate in the Champions League but we have to beat Brugge."

United have made a positive start to their Premier League campaign, claiming 1-0 wins over Tottenham and Aston Villa.

Amid suggestions his side are struggling to click going forward, Van Gaal added: "It's always a concern because a coach wants a perfect game always.

"In all other teams, they are not at moment at the highest level. It cannot be [the case] either.

"We have a long way to go but we have made a better start than last year. Also, two clean sheets, that says a lot about our structure and balance.

"I have confidence that we are developing ourselves better and I expect that also from my players."