Sunday 18 February 2018

Dismal start for Van Gaal as Swansea shock Man United

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal leaves the pitch after his teams 2-1 defeat against Swansea City
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal leaves the pitch after his teams 2-1 defeat against Swansea City

Dion Fanning at Old Trafford

Louis van Gaal said he couldn't have had a worse start as Manchester United manager after his side were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford by Swansea City yesterday.

United's confidence, built up over an impressive pre-season, had been "smashed" by their opening-day defeat, he said.

"I can guarantee that nobody in this room gave us a chance in hell," Swansea's manager Garry Monk said in the post-match press conference and he was probably right. Even with United's injury worries, most people expected Van Gaal to begin with a win that would boost morale.

"It is very disappointing for the players, for the fans, for me, for my staff," he said. "When you have preparation time and you win everything and your first match you lose, it cannot be worse, I believe. Also in the process it is not good because we have built up a lot of confidence and then it shall be smashed down because of this result."

United were unrecognisable from the team of last season but amazingly this wasn't necessarily in a good way. Ander Herrera made an impressive debut but with Tyler Blackett in defence and Jesse Lingard playing as wing-back, United looked a weaker side than the one that finished seventh under David Moyes. Van Gaal wouldn't be drawn when asked if Robin van Persie would be available for next week's game at Sunderland.

There will be further demands on Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, to strengthen the squad beyond the injured Luke Shaw and Herrera. United have been linked, for another summer, with a clutch of world-class players and while Angel Di Maria and Arturo Vidal are names that won't go away, United need more than links.

Van Gaal refused to talk about how many players he needed after the game. "I don't discuss that with you. That would make the wrong theme of this press conference. I talked about this also in the United States of America. You will now make it a relationship with this match. It is not like that."

Van Gaal will have learned a lot. "With players, it is always a question if we can play like a team and if we can reach the level and today we don't reach that level. That we have seen today. When you don't play like a team, it is very difficult."

Van Gaal praised his players' "fantastic mentality" and while he wouldn't criticise their effort, he gave another example of what he requires. "Reaching the level is difficult, not only running but using your brain. I have seen a great mentality in the second half but it was not enough."

Van Gaal may have a big job but he will not wait for those who hesitate. "Our wins in the United States and our win on Tuesday against Valencia made expectations so high. I then, in the first half, I saw a lot of players very nervous, making the wrong choices. That is a pity but these players also have to get used to that expectation. That is Manchester United, you have to cope with that pressure." Van Gaal can cope with the pressure. He may not be patient with those who can't.

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