Interview with Louis Saha: Louis van Gaal deserves credit for Manchester United's success
With two Premier League crowns, a UEFA Champions League medal, a League Cup title and a runners-up place in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Louis Saha is one of the best strikers that has donned the colours of Manchester United in the Premier League era and despite some serious injury woes, he scored 42 goals for the Red Devils in 124 appearances spread across a five-year-long stint.
The former French international recently visited India for the first time to be a part of the Chevrolet pavilion at the ongoing Auto Expo in Greater Noida and enthralled fans who rushed to click pictures with the United legend. In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, he spoke about the Indian Super League, France’s chances at the Euros and Louis van Gaal’s time at United among other things. Here's the interview in full.
Q – Hi Louis! Welcome to India! How has the experience here been so far?
A – Hello! It always feels great to come to a beautiful country like India and since it is my first time here, I must say that the experience has been great and enriching. I am looking forward to interacting with our wonderful fans and visiting some of the monuments in Delhi and also getting a taste of the food here.
Q – What is your perception about Indian football? Has it changed after the Indian Super League?
A – Earlier, I must say I did not know much about football in India and always thought that it was a country that was only good at cricket. However in the last year or two, all players in Europe have had to turn their heads and pay attention to the ISL.
I spoke to my friends Florent (Malouda), Mikael (Silvestre) and Nicolas (Anelka) who have played in India and they were only full of praise for the football here. Even I was approached multiple times by teams here but was unable to play because of other commitments. All in all, the scenario seems positive and I hope the future is bright.
Q – What are your thoughts on how United are playing right now? Shouldn’t the Reds be aiming for the title after buying so many players or are top 4 ambitions acceptable for now?
A – For now, I feel United are doing okay and it is not as bad as people are making it out to be. After the years of success the club has had, the fans have become demanding and expect trophies every season. I think it is important to note that all teams in the league have become stronger and bigger and no match is easy.
The Premier League is the toughest competition in the world and Louis van Gaal deserves credit for how he has steered the team and kept them challenging for the top places. His style of play might look boring right now, but it is what is required right now.
Q – A young French forward joining United and scoring goals - you have done it and this season Anthony Martial is doing the same. How would you assess his performance so far for the club?
A – From the day he joined Manchester United, I knew he will do well for sure. He has had a great start and is contributing to the team regularly. He was an unknown quantity for other teams when he signed for us, which has actually worked in his favour and he has managed to surprise teams with his ability.
Playing on the wing, he is learning a lot and will only grow with every game. His skill and quality are something that United had been missing for a while and I am certain he will go on to become a legend at the club.
Q – And what are your thoughts on Leicester City? What a season they are having!
A – Absolutely! I am really happy that a team like Leicester have been able to reach the top and challenge for the title. Having a coach as smart and calculated as Claudio Ranieri has helped them immensely and some of their players have really shone this season. I would rate Vardy as the most confident striker in the league and the consistency with which he has been scoring is delightful to watch.
Q – What are your expectations from the French team in the upcoming Euros? Do you think they can go on to win the trophy?
A – I think there are many quality teams who have a chance of winning the Euros. France are surely one of the contenders, especially since they will enjoy massive support as the home team. I would also rank Spain and Germany as favourites, but let's see what happens. I feel the French people will be satisfied with a place in the semifinals but I would certainly back them to win the Cup.
Q – India is hosting the U-17 World Cup next year for the very first time. How important are such tournaments for young players and the nations hosting them?
A – Personally, I feel that these tournaments are the most important ones for up and coming players. Competitions at junior level help develop a winning mentality at an early stage which becomes a very crucial factor in the future.
It also helps the players ease into life as professional footballers and not get overawed by the sudden increase in pressure. This is why I think England is unable to succeed at major tournaments and countries like Spain and Argentina, who have great youth systems, go on to do well.
Q – Any memories you have from your junior days? Any incident that stands out?
A – I remember playing for the France junior team and in my first game, I recall playing against Argentina. I saw Riquelme (Juan Roman) play and I was just blown away by the way he played. I remember thinking to myself that how he will go on to become a great player and play for the biggest clubs in the world.
You can tell if a player has the spark at this level, which is why these games are as important as the senior ones.