Louis van Gaal says Manchester United's poor ending to the year ruined a 'very good' 2015

His side begin the new year against Swansea City, who the Dutchman has described as his 'ghost team'

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The Independent Football

Louis van Gaal has claimed that only the worst December in Manchester United’s 138-year history prevented 2015 from being a “very good year” for the club.

United begin 2016 with a meeting with Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday – a club described by Van Gaal as his “ghost team” – aiming to end a run of three successive defeats at the hands of the Welsh side.

Any failure to claim three points against their managerless opponents would extend United’s winless run to nine games in all competitions and place Van Gaal’s position under further scrutiny.

Monday’s 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea alleviated the immediate pressure on Van Gaal, but with December seeing United suffer Champions League elimination and collect just two points from five Premier League games, the Dutchman admits that the final month of 2015 ruined the club’s calendar year.

“When you don’t assess December, it was a very good year, 2015,” Van Gaal said. “But you cannot do that because a year has 12 months, so I speak more about that period because we are still living in that period.

“I think we fulfilled the wish and our aim in the first season, but that ended halfway through 2015.

“After that, we managed to give balance to the team and that resulted in October and November when we were first, but then we are out of the Champions League and that gives us a big blow which we are still feeling.”

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Despite spending in excess of £250 million on new players since succeeding the sacked David Moyes as United manager in the summer of 2014, Van Gaal goes into the new year with the club in sixth position in the Premier League, already five points adrift of the top four.

And the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach admits that his team must quickly emerge from its slump to avoid the gap growing any bigger.

“We need to win because we want to be, at the end of the season, at the top of the league and not in the middle,” Van Gaal said. “We have to get points otherwise the gap is too big and that is why we have to do what we have to do.

“We have to work, do the things to prepare the game, perform and then evaluate the game again.

“That is, of course, much more difficult when you don’t win than when you win because all the things you say as a manager is more accepted when you win.

“But this is not the first club, maybe the last club, where I have had a bad period.

“I have had bad periods at all my clubs and I have to say the best fans are at Manchester United, because in such a difficult period they are applauding the performance of the players and that is fantastic.”

Swansea, unbeaten in their last three games under caretaker-manager Alan Curtis, travel to Old Trafford having claimed victory over United on Van Gaal’s first game in charge and also his 50th.

United have lost four of their last five games against Swansea in all competitions and Van Gaal admits there is no magic formula to ending that sequence.

“Swansea have been what I call my ‘ghost team’, having lost all three times we have played them,” Van Gaal said. “It means we are looking to start this new year with what I have been told you say in England by breaking the duck.

“We know it will be tough, but there is no magic. It is looking at what has already happened and what can be improved.”