MANCHESTER, September 13- Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal hopes that his team’s 3-1 home victory over arch rivals Liverpool will signal the end of their early-season difficulties.
United endured a testing start to the campaign, struggling for goals and facing criticism over their transfer dealings, and they went into the international break on the back of a 2-1 defeat at Swansea City.
But Saturday’s win over Liverpool blew off the cobwebs, with David de Gea back in goal following the collapse of his proposed move to Real Madrid and Anthony Martial netting a clinically taken debut goal following his £36 million ($55.1 million, 49 million euros) transfer from Monaco.
“I think in a difficult period like we had in the transfer period, with a lot of problems with players who are going and coming, it is always worse with Manchester United than the other clubs,” said Van Gaal, whose side climbed to second place in the table, five points below Manchester City.
“We have noticed that and I think we have managed that very well. We have qualified ourselves (in the Champions League), we have 10 points from five matches (in the league).
“That is a good record. There is only one club better and our aim is to be the best, but now we are five points behind Manchester City. We still look to that position, but I am happy.”
Martial, a 65th-minute replacement for Juan Mata, struck four minutes from time, slicing towards goal from the left and turning Martin Skrtel inside-out before planting a shot inside the right-hand post.
The goal settled nerves after Christian Benteke had brought Liverpool back into the game with a magnificent overhead bicycle kick moments earlier.
United had gone 2-0 up in the second half courtesy of a smooth Daley Blind finish from a training-ground free-kick routine and an emphatic Ander Herrera penalty.
But Van Gaal was critical of his side for almost allowing Liverpool back into the match, declaring himself more satisfied with their controlled first-half showing and lamenting their failure to “kill the game”.
Martial’s strike, in front of the Stretford End, was a moment to savour for the home fans, but Van Gaal said that the 19-year-old French striker would have to brace himself for bumps in the road ahead.
– ‘Work harder’ –
“You cannot expect from players from this age that they have consistency,” said the Dutchman.
“You cannot ask that. You can ask that from (Bastian) Schweinsteiger and (Michael) Carrick, but not players of 19 and 20 and 21.”
Martial may not have long to wait for his full debut, however, with Van Gaal revealing that skipper Wayne Rooney is unlikely to play in United’s Champions League opener away to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday due to what is reported to be a hamstring injury.
Van Gaal’s mood was in stark contrast to his opposite number Brendan Rodgers, who addressed journalists in a dejected whisper in his post-match media conference.
Liverpool have now conceded six goals in two games, following their 3-0 home defeat by West Ham United, and trail City by eight points.
“It’s five games in,” said Rodgers, whose side launch their Europa League campaign away to Bordeaux on Thursday.
“We haven’t created anywhere near as much as we would like. We have to go away with the coaches and the staff and see how we can find ways to be much more creative.
“We are still looking to find that way — and there’s players coming in — to get that balance in the team.”
He added: “This is the biggest game in this country, maybe in the world in terms of derby games. It’s an incredible game.
“I’ve been sat here when we’ve won 3-0 and it felt great. When you lose 3-1, you don’t feel so good.
“It is difficult for the supporters. We just have to go away, work harder and do better.”