Ferdinand: Van Gaal needs to give Man United’s attackers more freedom

The former Manchester United defender tips Chelsea for the title and wants to see more flair from the Red Devils...

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

Rio Ferdinand remains a fan of Louis van Gaal and hopes that his team stays fit for him this season – although he has one piece of tactical advice to share with the former Netherlands, Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

The ex-Manchester United centre-back likes the Dutchman’s fiery style but wishes to see him let United’s strike force – including Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay – off the leash rather than stick to any rigid tactical plans.

As well as writing off a title challenge from Liverpool this season, the 81-cap England defender, who this season will be working full-time as a football expert and presenter for BT Sport, also stated in an exclusive interview with FourFourTwo that he could understand Van Gaal’s dispensing of Angel Di Maria while eschewing the attacking play of Pedro, should the Barcelona wideman link up with the Red Devils.

Who’s your tip for the title?

Chelsea. I think it’s their experience. Also the squad that they have is the most balanced. They were fortunate last year with not many injuries. And if the same applies this year then they’re the team to beat.

Community Shield warning

What about Sunday, though, with Arsenal beating them [in the Community Shield]?

That won’t have a bearing. Never has. Whoever wins that, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be successful or win the league. It’s probably done more for Arsenal’s confidence than anything. 

What do you think Arsenal are short of then, to win the league?

I’d go for a centre-back.

And United?

I think they need to buy a centre-back as well, but as important as that is that they need their players to stay fit. Last season they had a lot of injuries and the manager was never quite sure who he was playing, but if everyone’s fit they’ve got a much better chance.

I like [LVG's] abruptness; his honesty with the media; he’s got a very clear idea of how he wants his team to play

- Rio Ferdinand

What’s your opinion of Van Gaal? Can you see him winning the title with United?

I like his abruptness, his honesty with the media. He’s got a very clear idea of how he wants his team to play and he doesn’t deviate from that. And I like that element of him. But I don’t know – I’d just like to see him give a bit more freedom to the players that he’s got up front.

Di Maria out, Pedro in

Angel Di Maria is off to PSG: can you understand why it hasn’t worked out for him there?

That’s Van Gaal. He’s very assured in what he’s doing: i.e. ‘he hasn’t performed, he won’t perform in the future and I don’t think the fortunes of the player will change, so I’m going to let him go’.

Memphis Depay

Memphis Depay needs to be given the freedom of the park, says Rio

Would you be happy to see Pedro come in as a replacement?

Yep, I would. He’s a top player. I think he’ll make a difference. I think he’d make an impact for all the top clubs in England if he went there. I think he’s a very good player. He’s got great pace and can help add width to the attack.

What about Liverpool; how far off are they seeing as they’ve spent a lot of money on revamping their strike force this summer?

Miles away. I think the most important thing for them is [Daniel] Sturridge staying fit. He’s the best striker they’ve got, regardless of who’s gone there, but he can’t get fit. And if he can’t get fit, then [Christian] Benteke’s got a huge responsibility to perform. They’ve had a lot of players coming and going in the last few years and getting that understanding between players is hard and something that’s held them back.

BT Sport 1 has the first game of the new Barclays Premier League season with Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday from noon, the first of 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League games this season on BT Sport. This season BT Sport Europe is the new home of European football with all UEFA Champions League matches and UEFA Europa League matches exclusively live. Visit