Atmosphere in United dressing-room needed to change – Van Gaal
'I have stimulated them to think about football' insists Reds boss, writes Pete Oliver
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes the dressing-room at Old Trafford was in danger of becoming too cosy an environment for his players as they struggled to escape their mid-season crisis.
United endured the worst run of December results in their history and went eight games without a victory before beating Swansea City 2-1 in the league last Saturday.
Van Gaal claimed afterwards that anger at the record had spurred his team on to end the club's longest winless run since 1989, and the Dutchman revealed before the start of United's FA Cup campaign at home to Sheffield United this evening that he had attempted to change the players' mindset to give them more input into performances and preparation.
Van Gaal, renowned for trying to impose his philosophy on his players in the opening 18 months of his United reign, said: "The atmosphere in our dressing-room is very good, maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing-room, their colleagues. That is very good until a certain height.
"We have also changed our approach to the players to make it more easy to take responsibility. I have stimulated them to think about football. The game is a brain sport and now you can let them think with you and therefore you can change your approach.
"The players take the commitment, for example, for the game-plan and other kinds of decisions and then the commitment is higher and bigger I think.
"We are trying everything to come to a solution but at the end it always comes down to we are better than the opponents. But we have to score goals."
United's attacking options have been increased by the early return from loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Preston, respectively, of winger Adnan Januzaj and striker Will Keane.
Keane (22) could be involved against the League One Blades in the third-round tie but Januzaj (20) is not expected to play until Monday night's U-21 fixture at Reading.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal has welcomed the expected arrival of Pep Guardiola in the Premier League next summer but does not believe his own position is under threat from the Bayern Munich coach, who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester City.
Van Gaal said: "You have to set always your goals, as a manager also. He wants to sniff the culture of England and I wanted that also.
"I'm at the end of my career so for me it's not so interesting. For me it's interesting how I take care of Manchester United and after this season I still have one year to go."
Manchester Utd v Sheffield Utd, Live, BT Sport 2, 5.30