Van Gaal basks in glory of his ‘best feeling’
United change balance of power in Manchester
Louis van Gaal hailed his United side as the best in Manchester after they put four goals past sorry City in Sunday’s derby at Old Trafford.
United ended a run of four successive Manchester derby defeats with an impressive 4-2 victory against their local rivals.
Ashley Young cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s opener before United ran riot, with Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling finding the net prior to Aguero’s late second.
The win moved United four points clear of their ‘noisy neighbours’, who are now in a scrap for Champions League qualification after being joint-top of the table on New Year’s Day.
When asked whether he regarded United as the best team in Manchester, Van Gaal said: “We are this moment four points ahead so that is a fact.”
There was a faint attempt to try to play down expectations.
“Maybe the difference will be one point again next week,” Van Gaal added.
But the main feeling was one of pure joy from the Dutchman after the final whistle, and who can blame him?
He has, after all, presided over a remarkable turnaround at Old Trafford.
After the 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, United were 10th in the standings, having won three of their opening 10 games.
Now Van Gaal’s team are almost certain to qualify for the Champions League. They are nine points ahead of Southampton with six matches to go and just one shy of second-placed Arsenal.
The fans who booed his team were belting his name out at Old Trafford yesterday and he was looking forward to toasting the biggest victory of his United career at his favourite Chinese restaurant in Manchester.
“I can go to Mr Wing’s (restaurant) tonight, because you can do that when you win,” Van Gaal said.
“When you lose, the fans say what is Mr Louis doing because he loses and goes out to the best restaurant.
“This afternoon is maybe the best feeling (since coming to United).
“It was not the best performance, because we started very badly, but we regained our confidence, scored the goals and the second half was fantastic.
“At the start of the season it was not fantastic to be a United man and the fans still have supported us.
“This week they can go on the streets, heads up and say: ‘We are the better team because goal average (over the two derbies) is in our favour’.”
Van Gaal played down his role in United’s revival before kick-off, claiming his players should take credit for the recent upturn in form.
But the Dutchman must take a lot of praise for the way he has helped Young and Fellaini develop into two of the most destructive players in the league on current form.
Young lacked confidence last year and looked almost certain to be heading out of Old Trafford after Van Gaal replaced David Moyes.
But yesterday he gave Pablo Zabaleta, one of the most experienced and consistent right-backs in the league, a truly torrid time.
Young swept the ball into the City net at the second attempt following a block by Gael Clichy to equalise and he then set up Fellaini, who put United 2-1 up.
Young also provided the cross for Smalling’s goal, a free header which he nodded past Joe Hart with 17 minutes left.
The United boss praised the 29-year-old after the match.
“He was fantastic. He was our best player,” Van Gaal said.
The only downside was that United finished the game with 10 men because Michael Carrick came off injured after Van Gaal had made all three substitutions. His “stiff calf” does not seem too serious, though.
“It was a little bit stupid of me (not to substitute Carrick),” Van Gaal said.
“He was wise to step off but we have to wait and see tomorrow. He had a stiff calf.”