Tuesday 12 December 2017

Louis van Gaal: The results over the last 20 games say we are the best team in the league

Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal
Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal has been left with another selection conundrum after he revealed Robin van Persie will be back for Manchester United's match at Swansea on Saturday.

Van Persie missed the 3-1 win over Preston on Monday because of an unspecified injury, but the striker is in the squad for this weekend's game at the Liberty Stadium.

Van Persie's return means Van Gaal will have to decide whether to hand his Dutch compatriot a start at the expense of Wayne Rooney or Radamel Falcao - or drop his captain into midfield.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference at the AON Training Complex, the United boss said: "Michael Carrick is the only injury."

Van Gaal expects Carrick to return to training next week, but the Swansea game has come too soon for the midfielder, who suffered a calf injury last month.

Defender Phil Jones, however, is fit for the match at Liberty Stadium having overcome his knee problem.

The reverse fixture on the opening weekend of the season will go down as one of the low points of Van Gaal's reign.

United went into the match on the back of a perfect pre-season campaign in which they had beaten the Los Angeles Galaxy, Inter Milan, Roma, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia.

But the Red Devils lost 2-1 to Garry Monk's side and, to borrow a phrase from the United boss, his squad's confidence was "smashed" as a result.

Seven months later, despite some lethargic and unimaginative performances, Van Gaal thinks his team have got their swagger back - and he may have a point, given that United are third in the table having lost just once in their last 19 matches.

"We came from the United States where we had won everything, so that was a big shock (to lose against Swansea)," Van Gaal said, reflecting on the opening-day defeat at Old Trafford.

"After that we lost a lot of points even though we were the better team, because we couldn't score enough at that time.

"I think that the confidence at this moment is the same as (after the tour).

"When you see the scores of the last 19 or 20 matches we are the best team in the league. So that is why I think confidence is also high like it was at the beginning.

"The players know and have experience of playing in the system with my philosophy."

United put in another unconvincing display at Deepdale on Monday when they had to come from behind to beat League One North End and set up an FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal.

Van Gaal admits some of the criticism that has been aimed at his team recently has been valid and he is looking for an improvement from his squad in the final quarter of the season.

"I am never 100 per cent happy," the 63-year-old said.

"We can play better but the main thing is to win your match, not to lose.

"We have shown this year a lot of times team spirit and that is very attractive for the fans but also for the coach, because then you can see a player wants to follow you."

Van Gaal has spent over £150million on seven new players since he arrived at United, but the club are still willing to back him with significant funds in the next transfer window.

The Dutchman has been linked with a number of players in recent weeks, including Nathaniel Clyne, Kyle Walker, Kevin Strootman and Mats Hummels.

However, Van Gaal declined an invitation to comment on how many changes he thinks he needs to make to his squad in the summer.

"You will have to see and wait," he said.

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