Manchester United's new players Radamel Falcao, left, and Daley Blind pose for photographs at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Thursday Sept. 11, 2014. The Colombian striker Falcao joined on a season-long loan deal from Ligue 1 side Monaco and Blind signed from Ajax as Louis van Gaal looks to bolster his attacking options. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Manchester United's new player Radamel Falcao walks across the pitch at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Thursday Sept. 11, 2014. The Colombian striker Falcao joined on a season-long loan deal from Ligue 1 side Monaco as Louis van Gaal looks to bolster his attacking options. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Manchester United's new players Radamel Falcao, left, and Daley Blind, right, pose for photographs with manager Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Thursday Sept. 11, 2014. The Colombian striker Falcao joined on a season-long loan deal from Ligue 1 side Monaco and Blind signed from Ajax as Louis van Gaal looks to bolster his attacking options. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
MANCHESTER, England — Just one practice session in the company of Radamel Falcao has convinced Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal that the Colombia striker is the player to turn around the team's flagging fortunes.
"I don't have doubts because he is for me one of the best strikers in the world," Van Gaal said on Thursday. "Today in training he got one ball and it was in the goal. He confirmed it in his first training session with me."
A glance at Falcao's scoring record since moving to Europe from River Plate in 2009 also suggests United's reported outlay of $25 million in salary and fee for his season-long loan from Monaco is a financial gamble worth taking.
At FC Porto, he scored 72 goals in 87 games from 2009-11. At Atletico Madrid, he scored 70 goals in 91 games from 2011-13. And his scoring ratio in half a season at Monaco before he succumbed to a serious knee injury in mid-January was almost one goal every two games.
With Falcao, goals are guaranteed. No wonder Van Gaal wore a broad smile as he grabbed Falcao's hand and held it up at the end of his presentation as a United player at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Falcao said the right things, too, suggesting he was ready to settle down at United — his fifth club in five years, all in different countries.
"When I was in Porto, Atletico Madrid, I always wanted to improve, and dreamed of playing in a team like (United)," he said in English. "And now, I want to stay here for many years."
United has the option of signing Falcao for a reported 44 million pounds ($71 million) at the end of the season. If Falcao can help return the club to the Champions League, it will be a no-brainer for the 20-time English champions.
What United and Van Gaal will be keen to see is that Falcao has recovered from the injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that cost him a place in Colombia's World Cup squad.
He hasn't played 90 minutes since his return, in six matches for club and country.
"I feel well," Falcao said. "I started to play two months ago with Monaco and I improved in the last month a lot. I am confident in my physical form. I am comfortable with my knee."
Falcao completed his move to United in the final hours of the summer transfer window, arriving at Old Trafford just as another striker in England international Danny Welbeck left to join Arsenal.
Critics have suggested that by moving on Welbeck and other young British players like Tom Cleverley and Tom Lawrence this summer, Van Gaal is abandoning the club's long-held policy of bringing through youth players. At least while United looks to recover its position as one of England's top teams following a dreadful season under David Moyes in 2013-14.
Van Gaal offered a stern defense.
"I am always willing to give young players chances but they have to take them," Van Gaal said. "I cannot do that for them.
"I have given all the players a chance to convince me of their qualities. Danny Welbeck was here when he was 9 ... but he doesn't have the record of Van Persie or Rooney and that is the standard. That is why we let him go."
By moving in successive summers to Atletico, Monaco and now United, Falcao is making a habit of missing out on playing in the Champions League. It's the fifth straight season that he won't be featuring in Europe's top club competition, a stage which attracts so many South American players to Europe.
"Every player wants to play Champions League," he said. "This year it is not possible in Manchester but we are confident of achieving the qualification for next season."
Falcao could make his debut for United in the Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday. United has two points from its opening three games under Van Gaal.
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