YEOVIL, January 5 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said the Christmas period had been a triumph for his team after they beat Yeovil Town to reach the FA Cup fourth round.
While Sunday’s 2-0 win against third-tier opponents who sat 65 places below them in the league ladder was to be expected, Van Gaal was pleased to achieve it, despite picking up two more injured defenders along the way.
Right-back Rafael da Silva suffered a possible fractured cheekbone, while left-back Luke Shaw picked up an ankle problem. Both were substituted at half-time.
“I’m very happy that we have survived this festive period because I don’t have a big squad because of all the injuries. I had a small squad,” Van Gaal said after the match.
“I could not change much and in spite of that we have regained ground on Chelsea by one point (in the Premier League) after the festive period and we are in the fourth round of the FA Cup. What more can a manager wish for?
“I have heard from my fantastic assistant manager (Ryan Giggs) that Man United have not won the FA Cup for 10 years and maybe we can do that this year. But it is a very long way.”
Rafael left Yeovil’s Huish Park stadium early to have his injury assessed and Van Gaal praised the Brazilian for his commitment while sympathising with his misfortune in getting injured.
“He played through (the pain) because the last few weeks he didn’t play and now he is injured,” said the Dutchman. “He has a fantastic mentality, it’s unbelievable.”
Ander Herrera’s superb 64th-minute strike from outside the penalty area put United ahead before a calm finish from substitute Angel di Maria sealed United’s progress in the final minute of the match.
On Herrera’s strike, Van Gaal said: “It’s his class. It’s not his first goal from outside the box and it was a fantastic goal. There was a little bit of luck, but you need that and I was very happy with him.”
– ‘Gave them a fright’ –
Robin van Persie was rested for the game so James Wilson came into the side to start in attack alongside Radamel Falcao, with Wayne Rooney playing in midfield.
United failed to create a decent chance in the first half, but improved after the break.
Van Gaal was ultimately pleased with how his side went about their business, and that Di Maria got some time on the pitch after missing the last two weeks with hamstring and pelvic problems.
“We didn’t have the patience in the first half,” he said. “We wanted to make the first goal too much and I changed the shape. We had a man more in midfield then and we kept the ball better.
“We have a lot of pace in our attack and that is why I selected Wilson and later I gave Di Maria 30 minutes, because he needs to build up his match rhythm.
“It’s not a matter of how far below us they were because when you see the performance of Yeovil Town and how they press the ball, the ball was always under pressure and you can do that with an amateur team also.”
Gary Johnson, the Yeovil manager, had warned his players not to ask for ‘selfies’ with Rooney and his illustrious team-mates before the match, but he was proud of their performance on the day.
“I wanted to make sure we gave them a fright and we did that,” Johnson said.
“When the boys get home, they’ll realise what they’ve done here. I don’t think there was £159 million ($244 million, 203 million euros) between the sides.”