Manchester United vs Everton: Optimistic Louis van Gaal eyeing top of league table, despite fragility

United manager hopeful of success

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The Independent Football

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has declared his players can push on towards the top of the table, having reached a top four position for the first time in over a year despite “not playing good”.

United continued their characteristic recent two-pace pattern – a dominant first half followed by a desperate late struggle – in the 2-1 win over Everton, which was preserved for them by three sublime saves from goalkeeper David de Gea. Van Gaal expressed disappointment with the way his side had created danger for themselves but declared they would improve further.

“We are not playing good but we are already fourth in the table,” he said. “[So] what is coming when we are  playing well? It’s a little bit strange that every time the first half is very good and the second half was so different. I tried to maintain the  organisation and in spite of that we weren’t more  organised. That’s a pity because normally you can create a lot of chances because Everton want to score [an equaliser]. The space for our attack was bigger but we didn’t profit from it.”

The Dutchman expressed particular frustration that his Argentinian duo – central defender Marcos Rojo and playmaker Angel Di Maria – will now be making a 13-hour flight to play Brazil in the South American Super Cup, with a friendly against Japan three days later. “They are playing two friendly games. They are coming back with jetlag and I have to wait. Then I have only two days before [we play] West Bromwich Albion,” he said.

Van Gaal refused to  discuss the individual  performances of players after a game in which Di Maria shone and Radamel Falcao scored his first United goal but said his players were still not defending as a collective. “With 10 [men, because of Wayne Rooney’s dismissal] we could have defended  better than last week but now we play 11 against 11 and we still have not defended well,” the manager said. “We have given in the second half four big chances away. In other matches, we didn’t give them. I like Everton because they are a playing team. That I said before the match also but we have to do it better and improve. That is why we have to train but now all my players are gone. The rest are injured. I have to wait.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez, whose side’s 16 goals conceded represents the worst defensive record in the division, refused to blame goalkeeper Tim Howard, after his poor clearance set up United’s winner. “I wouldn’t say that. Errors are part of the game,” he said, although Howard’s mixed start to the campaign may give back-up keeper Joel Robles hope. Everton are fourth bottom.

Martinez said his central defender John Stones, who left Old Trafford on crutches, will be out for at least two weeks and unable to join up with the England team after suffering ankle ligament damage. United’s Luke Shaw  revealed a knee injury would not prevent him joining  England under-21s. He said: “I spoke with the doctor and the manager and both feel it’s best that I do go.”