Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he was “stupid” to invite people to analyse his reign at United after three months in charge as he admitted his side are still trying to catch up with the English Premier League’s elite clubs.
Van Gaal also claimed the Red Devils are suffering from the lack of European football this season, insisting no amount of training could make up for missing out on the challenges posed by the UEFA Champions’ League.
When the Dutch coach took over at Old Trafford in July he suggested his impact could not be truly measured until he was at least three month into the job, and he still believes in the point he was trying to make, that it will take time to impose his football philosophy, but now the initial period is up he feels he is having to answer unnecessary questions.
“I have said it was very stupid to say three months because then [the media] are only talking about three months,” he said.
“It is always the performance that counts, but the performance always goes up and down. Then we rise. When that date is, or what that match is, depends.”
United have made an indifferent start under Van Gaal with the performances currently being quite unpredictable, and £150 million was spent on new players over the summer, but he is still moulding on the new team, and he expects he process to take time but he is confident, from experience, that everything will come good.
Van Gaal had a turbulent spell after taking charge of German giants Bayern Munich in 2009, and pressure mounted on him after a poor opening and by November there was speculation he could be sacked from his position at the Allianz Arena.
But fortunes then turned after an impressive Champions’ League win away Italian Serie A masters Juventus and Van Gaal’s Bavarians went on to reach the final of that competition and win the German Bundesliga.
Van Gaal feels United are still looking for the spark that could provide that Juventus-like turning point despite successive wins over West Ham United and Everton in the Premier League, but he thinks it could come any time.
“I believe we won 4-1 in Juventus, a fantastic game – that gave us a psychological benefit,” he said.
“But that was a very good game – against Everton we could not say it was very good. The first 60 minutes, maybe, but a game lasts 90 minutes.”
“I don’t think points are very important in the process. It’s the game, it’s the style, it’s the formation, it’s the philosophy that we have to judge and not the points. The points are coming when we are playing good, and not only good for 60 minutes, but 90 minutes.”
The comparisons with Bayern are not quite like for like, as the Manchester club are not involved in the UEFA Champions’ League this season and Van Gaal does not think his side is ready to launch a title bid.
“Every team can win, you have your hopes, but I do think there are stronger teams now in the world,” he said. “We have to make a team. That is why I have a period of three years. I hope we can fulfil that dream that we have together.”
United will look to rebuild momentum as they travel to the Hawthorns on Monday night to face West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League, and the trip is United’s last chance to sharpen up ahead of their two big matches against current league leader Chelsea and reigning league champions and Manchester rivals Manchester City in the coming weeks, and it could be argued that United have an important advantage of free midweeks while Chelsea and City are involved in the Champions’ League, but Van Gaal does not see it that way.
“A training session is different to a match,” he said.
“You cannot simulate a match rhythm. We try to but it is different.”
“I have said before, when you can play the Champions League – also the Europa League – you can compare yourself as a team with better players, with a higher level.”
“I think when you are in the Champions League and it is going well you beat the opponents, you are coming into a flow, then it is not so bad to play all the matches.”
“Maybe in my first year I have more chances to train with my players. That is probably better than all the matches. Maybe.”
“But at the end it is always better to play in the Champions League and in the cup, and all the matches.”
United could have several players back from injury in contention for the West Brom trip, with Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick all returning to training, but defenders Johnny Evans and Paddy McNair and midfielders Jesse Lingard and Antonio Valencia are still sidelined through injury while captain Wayne Rooney is suspended.