Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal declared that his team are “going the right way” with confidence boosted after victory over the European champions Real Madrid sent them into the final of the International Champions Cup against Liverpool on Monday.
Van Gaal cautioned that beating the side’s arch North West rivals “will not tell [us] anything” because it will be “preparation time” for both sides. But he insisted that his players’ confidence had already been replenished with four successive wins across the United States and that it would be “better to win than lose” against Brendan Rodgers’ team.
Of the 3-1 win over Real Madrid he declared: “It’s preparation time. So also for the opponents its preparation time. You’ve seen [Cristiano] Ronaldo arriving [as late as] the 75th minute. We also miss players like [Marouane] Fellaini, [Adnan] Januzaj, [Robin] van Persie – so you cannot say: ‘ok so we will beat every team’. It is not like that. But of course it’s a very good result for us and it gives confidence to all the players. I changed a lot of players but in spite of that we also scored in the second half. We did that before. So we are going the right way I think.”
The Dutchman continued to offer only muted encouragement to Javier Hernandez, despite him scoring United’s third goal after arriving from the bench. Van Gaal said that Hernandez picked out the wrong pass in the build-up and had Shinji Kagawa’s excellent assist to thank for rescuing that situation.
“[Hernandez] came into the game and he was involved at once,” van Gaal said. That is very good when you are a substitute. We need that. He scores a wonderful goal - well prepared by Shinji Kagawa and also Fletcher. But during that move, he should have given the ball to [Tom] Cleverley and he gives it to Kagawa. He needs to thank Kagawa for the nice pass but it would have been better to pass back to Cleverley.”
Neither did he duck the fact that Michael Keane’s error against the pace of Gareth Bale had revealed that he is not yet ready to step into United’s first team
When it was put to him that Keane might be a future first team player, he replied: “Don’t say that too early because [young players] have to see if they can fit in our team. They can do the job but they cannot do the job for a lot of matches. They can do it for one match and maybe when you give them more the experience will increase. Today you have also seen that the penalty was not so smart. He has to learn from these errors think. The same goes for Tyler [Blackett.] He can play at this level also but if he can play match, match, match and ten other matches - that is the question. I cannot answer that at the moment.”
With the prospect of silverware in his third week at the helm, van Gaal was asked if this would be a record. He cited the Super Cup and the pre-season Telekom Cup that he has won in Germany and the Netherlands. But he also cited the commercial benefits of this tour, in what felt like a marked shift in tone from his earlier criticism of the onerous travel. “The impact of this tour is bigger than the Telekom Cup or the Super Cup in the Netherlands! We are here. More than 300,000 fans and now in Miami more than that. I think that in the news all over the world the broadcasters will show [today’s] first goal. It was a fantastic goal by Manchester United. All the team has touched the ball. So only for that goal you come to the stadium, I think.”
Van Gaal, who said that Danny Welbeck would be assessed today for a knee injury which saw him withdrawn after the first half, declared that a United defence that has conceded two goals in open play had impressed him most these past two weeks.
“I think our defensive line is amazing,” he said. “Amazing that you can pick up a new system like that. It’s not new for Mata, Rooney or Welbeck because they play in their true position - nor for the two midfielders. The biggest impact with this new system is on the back line but it is amazing. We have given away one chance in first half two in the second half or have you counted more...?”