Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has spoken to volatile midfielder Marouane Fellaini about keeping his emotions in check when he makes his first return to former club Everton.
Fellaini left Merseyside to join United in a £27 million ($40 million) deal in August 2013 following five years in which he became a talismanic figure at Everton.
Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal. File pic.
The Belgium international struggled for form during his first 12 months at Old Trafford under former Everton manager David Moyes and he was an unused substitute last April when United lost 2-0 at Goodison Park in what was Moyes' last game in charge.
He has since flourished under van Gaal this season, scoring six times from an attacking midfield role as United have recovered from a slow start to climb up to third place in the Premier League. But Fellaini is expected to receive a hostile reception from the Everton supporters on Sunday and, given his occasionally fiery temperament, may also be a target for provocation from some of his former team-mates. "I have spoken with Fellaini because I know this. Fellaini is always dry in his answers," van Gaal said. "He said 'it's just a game' but I said 'yes, but it's a special game for you'.
I hope the fans shall receive him like the Chelsea fans received Juan Mata because I like that very much. I hope it's like that. "I always communicate with my players about philosophy, performance, attitude, behaviour, and maybe one or two aspects more. "When players believe in you they want to convince me, because every player playing for Manchester United has qualities. "Marouane Fellaini has qualities and we want to let those qualities dominate. That is what we are trying to do and I believe that we are doing that.
That's why his performances are better just now." - Van Persie warned - Robin van Persie is again expected to be in van Gaal's squad after making it as far as the substitutes' bench for last weekend's 1-0 defeat to leaders Chelsea, which ended United's six-match winning run. The Dutch forward, who had been out of action for two months with an ankle injury, then played an hour for United's under-21 side last Monday but van Gaal warned he is not guaranteed a rapid return to first-team action.
"He has to train very hard and play in the second team and show his qualities again," van Gaal said. "Then I have to compare him with the positions he can play with the players in that position. It's always the same."
The possible return from an ankle injury of Daley Blind could release United captain Wayne Rooney, who has featured in midfield of late, to return to a striking role against his former club. Defender Jonny Evans is also available again after completing a six-match ban for spitting, but Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Michael Carrick remain sidelined through injury and defender Rafael will not play again this season after fracturing his ribs in an under-21 match.
United are on course to finish in the top four and secure a return to the Champions League as they enjoy an eight-point advantage over fifth-placed Liverpool, who have played a game fewer. But van Gaal insists that is only his initial target, with winning the Premier League his ultimate aim.
The Dutchman, a title winner in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands as a coach, said: "We set this goal because it was very difficult to reach the top four. "We have discussed our goal with the board and the owners. I am the manager and I have to achieve, but they have set this goal for me to achieve. "I am always in a club to win the championship, not the third or fourth position. If we achieve our goal my board and the owners will be very happy."