Louis van Gaal launched a spikey defence of his Manchester United team’s defensive record after they won 3-2 away at Southampton with manager Ronald Koeman identifying the away side’s “defensive weaknesses”.
The Dutch manager was reluctant to accept that his side had struggled in the first 30 minutes of the game when they conceded the first of Graziano Pelle’s two goals. United’s new £58m signing Anthony Martial subsequently scored twice and there was another for Juan Mata before Pelle’s second made it a difficult last few minutes for United.
Asked whether his team needed to score more goals to make up for defensive inefficiencies, Van Gaal said: “I don’t agree with you. Have you seen the goal average against? Also last season all the media was writing the defence is very bad but at the end we were third [least conceded] in the Premier League [United were fourth for goals against]. You say something and don’t think about what you are saying.”
When it was put to Van Gaal that Koeman had pointed out the weaknesses of his team’s defence the United manager first accused the media of having misquoted his opposite number. When it was pointed out that Koeman had indeed said just that, Van Gaal described the observation in question as “remarkable”.
Van Gaal said that his team’s struggles were down to tiredness from their Champions League exertions mid-week against PSV Eindhoven. He took Matteo Darmian off at half-time after a poor first half and later replaced Marcos Rojo with Paddy McNair who played at centre-back. Van Gaal said he replaced Darmian with Antonio Valencia to deal with the threat of Dusan Tadic.
“He [Darmian] gives too much space on Tadic in my opinion and Tadic was the most dangerous man. That is why I have changed him and Valencia did very well – I didn't see Tadic anymore in the second half.”
Southampton 2 Manchester United 3 player ratings
Southampton 2 Manchester United 3 player ratings
1/21 Southampton: Stekelenburg: 5/10
The Dutchman was not helped by his defenders, but did not have the look of a composed man. Not a worthy replacement for Fraser Forster.
2/21 Yoshida 4
Right back is not his favoured position and it showed. Produced a criminal back pass to gift Martial the opportunity to score his second goal.
3/21 Fonte 6
A leading light in Southampton's back line. The only remaining member of last season's tight knit rearguard, he is a level above the rest.
4/21 Van Dijk 5
The defender is quickly discovering that the Premier League is not comparable to the north of the border. Struggled and lucky not to be dismissed for a petulant foul on Martial.
5/21 Targett 5
Substituted at half time after struggling to contain United's forages forward on the right flank.
6/21 Wanyama 6
The enforcer was not at his best but still helped to smother plenty of United attacks. However, couldn't link to the front men as well as he would have liked.
7/21 Romeu 5
Struggled to get a foothold in the game. The Spaniard must improve if he is to fulfil his potential at St. Mary's.
8/21 Mane 6
A constant menace. Few defenders seem to have figured out how to stop him and he produced a superb assist for Pelle's second.
9/21 Ward-Prowse 6
The English youngsters boasts superb delivery from wide areas and did not disappoint. Needs to do more to cope with the physicality of the division.
10/21 Tadic 6
Encouraging early on, but the midfielder's display fizzled out somewhat. His crosses did not dip in quality but he did not have the impact that his start suggested he would.
11/21 Pelle 7
A simple tap in for the first goal, which he took well, and nodded home superbly for his second. Would have had a hat trick but for the width of the post.
12/21 Manchester United: De Gea 7/10
The safest pair of hands in the division. Exposed by his poor defence on countless occasions but still made several smart stops.
13/21 Darmian 5
Withdrawn at half time due to injury. If the Italian's absence is an extended one he will be sorely missed given the impressive start to his career in England.
14/21 Smalling 5
All at sea early on in a throw back to the dark days. Struggled to cope with Pelle's power and the fluid nature of the remainder of Southampton's attack. A dip after what has been a stellar start to the campaign.
15/21 Blind 5
Although the Dutchman is composed on the ball his lack of pace is strikingly obvious. His ability can get him our of trouble at times but his snail-like speed can be his downfall at centre back.
16/21 Carrick 5
The Englishman's strengths do not seem to sit well with Schneiderlin's. Sat deep but looked off the pace. He is far from an enforcer and his composed - but safe - patterns of passing did little to affect the game.
17/21 Schneiderlin 6
Appeared to be somewhat affected by the return to familiar surroundings. Received a bit of jib from the home crowd but still managed to pass the ball impeccably.
18/21 Mata 6
Debate continues in regards to the Spaniard's best position, though the right flank is not alien to him.
19/21 Rooney 6
Distinctly average. The skipper was deployed at number 10 and covered plenty of ground but did not provide the cutting edge in the final third that he is constantly expected to command.
20/21 Depay 6
It just isn't happening for the Dutchman. He is desperate to make something happen but his powerful runs and ability on the ball are yet to yield a final product. Struck the post in the build up to Mata's goal.
21/21 Martial 8
The teenager has answered his critics emphatically. A well-taken brace courtesy of two composed finishes had the appearance of a man with far more experience than the 19-year-old. His instant impact goes from strength to strength.
Van Gaal praised Martial’s talent adding that he expected the teenager’s form to go through some peaks and troughs. “You cannot expect consistency from a player of 19-years-old. Emotionally they shall have a lot of dips so that I expect also from him but that is not a big problem for me.
“I’m very happy that he is in three matches and his talent is at a high level. He adapts to the system of how we want to play, that is also important, not every player can adapt in that system but he shows he wants to do that and he can do that. He scores goals. That is the most important thing, that as a striker he scores goals.”
Koeman said that he had told his players not to hit back-passes to the goalkeeper of the kind that Maya Yoshida did for the second United goal. “I hate players who always hit the ball always back to the goalkeeper … there were several moments in the game where you put the pressure on them. We saw the weaknesses of Manchester United today, defensively.
“I will tell them the same story [about backpasses], it is always a risk. We have to learn form that because we made that mistake last year [with Jose Fonte] and we did it again. You can talk about tactics, and goalkeepers, offside or not offside but we lost by ourselves and not by our opponent.”Reuse content