Tuesday 12 December 2017

Van Gaal 'proud' to reach premier summit

United boss not fazed by October schedule

Juan Mata celebrates his goal in the win over Sunderland with Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young
Juan Mata celebrates his goal in the win over Sunderland with Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney celebrates his first Premier League goal of the season in the win over Sunderland
United boss Louis van Gaal talks to Sunderland’s assistant manager Zeljko Petrovic after the game

Louis van Gaal was spreading a message of joy and pride to the rank and file at Old Trafford after Manchester United climbed to the top of the Premier League table.

Manchester City's 4-1 defeat to Tottenham left the door open for United and they did not pass the opportunity to leapfrog their local rivals.

United ran out 3-0 winners over Sunderland thanks to goals from Memphis Depay, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata.

It was the first time United had topped the table under Van Gaal and he made sure he was not the only one with a beaming smile as he left Old Trafford on Saturday night.

"I am proud, of course," the United manager said.

"I said to the security guy: 'You are now a security guy of a club that top of the league' and that makes a huge difference. Also for him. He is proud and I am proud.

"Last week it was the first time I was second. He was smiling."


Once Depay had broken Sunderland's admirable resistance in the fourth minute of first-half injury time, United looked certain to grab all three points.

Just 38 seconds after the restart, Rooney bundled in his first Premier League goal in 999 minutes and Mata converted Ashley Young's cross in the dying stages to round off the win.

Sterner tests lie around the corner. United travel to Arsenal on Sunday and after the international break they face tough tests against Everton and City.

But Van Gaal does not think October will define whether his team are genuine title challengers.

"I know exactly where I stand," the United manager said.

"We have a good team but we can win and lose. You need luck but the balance of the team is better than last season.

"I don't have to wait until October. We shall improve every week, yes."

Few predicted United would be top of the pile following a summer of upheaval.

Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Javier Hernandez and Angel di Maria left the club while David de Gea's contract situation proved to be a real distraction in pre-season.

Van Gaal believes the addition of six new faces was key to United's good start.

"It's because of the players you select (buy). The manager has influence but the players much more," Van Gaal said.

"They have to build up a structure in the dressing room and that's really important.

"They have to accept that structure. That is why I do that every season - every season I shall do that - because I think we need that new stimulus."

For the first time since he moved to United, Anthony Martial failed to score in a Premier League game, but he did set up Rooney.

The United captain had some strong words of praise for the £36million Frenchman

"He's been incredible," Rooney said. "He's a 19-year-old lad who doesn't speak English and has moved over from France with a young family, so we have to understand that.

"He'll be a big player for us throughout the season and in the future, but we need to let him enjoy his football, and I'm sure he'll bring magic moments for us."

Bottom club Sunderland are yet to win in seven matches, but Steven Fletcher insists the squad's resolve remains strong.

"There is a great bunch of lads here so we will keep upbeat and hopefully the win will come sooner or later," the striker said.

"We will work hard on the training field and the gaffer is working hard for us."

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