NEWCASTLE, January 13 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal dismissed suggestions that his side’s enterprising 3-3 draw at Newcastle United was a riposte to critics who have accused them of boring football.
In a breathless contest against former United assistant coach Steve McClaren’s team on Tuesday, United led 2-0 and 3-2, only to lose two points when Newcastle defender Paul Dummett equalised in the last minute.
Van Gaal, for whom Wayne Rooney scored twice and set up a goal for Jesse Lingard, was disappointed with his team for throwing away two important points, but did not feel he had to answer critics such as former United players turned television pundits Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand.
“I have not agreed with the analysis of many people because we are always attacking and we are always attacking also away,” said Van Gaal, whose side slipped to sixth in the Premier League table.
“But I have to live with it, I have to cope with it. My players have to cope with it. It is very difficult for them, but we have given two points away.
“You have to finish, of course, but it was always difficult. Rooney had also in the first half a very good chance. We could have made six goals.
“There were big possibilities and when you lose two points, that’s very, very sad. And also everybody knows it is our own fault — it’s not the referee or the opponent. We did it by ourselves.”
Lingard and Marouane Fellaini, in particular, were guilty of glaring misses late on as Newcastle ended a run of four straight defeats.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored their first goal in 453 minutes and Aleksandar Mitrovic converted a spot-kick after a furious penalty-box wrestling match with Chris Smalling.
“We have to blame ourselves because we could have finished the match much earlier and we didn’t do that,” added Van Gaal.
“I’ve said that to my players. You can say the referee makes a questionable decision for the penalty, but we could have finished it much earlier.
“The heavyweight wrestling between Mitrovic and Smalling — you can see he’s pushing the head of Smalling to the ground. Then they are heavyweight champions and you can judge who is the champion.
“Smalling thought it was him. The referee makes his decision and we have to accept it. For me it’s easier because I see the video.”
– ‘Got their rewards’ –
He added: “We were the better team and that’s why it’s very frustrating. It’s very expensive points.
“We’ve scored three goals and have one point for it, nothing more. You have to score one more than your opponent and we didn’t do that.
“We have a fantastic defence, but we concede three goals. But are we weak in defence? No.”
McClaren believed that both teams had answered their critics — United for their supposed lack of adventure and his own side for their alleged lack of fighting spirit.
“That was a case of boring United? They were not boring!” he said.
“A questionable attitude and character from our players? There was none of that. They have been building and growing and they fought for 95 minutes tonight (Tuesday) and got their rewards.
“That’s most important. Earlier in the season people were questioning that, but the players have come through that and shown fantastic character.”
McClaren was also buoyed by the signings of England midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who has joined from Swansea City, and Senegalese midfielder Henri Saivet, both of whom were paraded on the pitch before kick-off.
“We’ve been going about our business quietly and brought two quality young players in,” he said.
“We tried to get Jonjo in the summer, but it wasn’t to be. He’s 23, he’s young, English and he’s in the England team, and I think there’s more to come from him.
“I’m not sure if he’s got something to prove, but he’s got a lot to fight for.”