Manchester United vs Aston Villa: Louis van Gaal seeks Sir Alex Ferguson praise after upswing

Van Gaal has had little direct contact with Ferguson and rarely mentions him

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The Independent Football

Although Louis van Gaal said that praise from former Manchester United players means a lot, he added that it would mean more coming from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Unlike his predecessor as Manchester United manager, David Moyes, Van Gaal has had little direct contact with Ferguson and rarely mentions the man who brought 13 league titles to Old Trafford. However, they are due to meet soon and, following United’s impressive victories over Tottenham and Liverpool, the mood is likely to be good.

Reminded that the club’s former captain, Gary Neville, had described Manchester United’s first-half performance at Anfield as perhaps the best he had seen against Liverpool, Van Gaal replied: “The comments of legends are always important because they have a lot of fans and the fans listen to the legends.

“It is nice for Manchester United, the players and the manager when legends say these things but, when Ferguson says it, I am more proud because, as a manager, he can judge more than an ex-player what is an achievement.

“He is always on the move, so it is difficult to speak to him but we will meet up soon.”

The displays against Tottenham and Liverpool were not just indications that United under Van Gaal perform better against the better teams, which is important since they have Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City to come. It suggested that, after months of tinkering and experimentation, this might be his best side.

It includes Marouane Fellaini, the butt of too many Old Trafford jokes under Moyes, but not the big names of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao or Robin van Persie. The transformation of the Belgian has been one of Van Gaal’s finest achievements. He is now as undroppable at United as he was at his peak with Everton.

“The first time I met him he was late because of the World Cup,” said Van Gaal. “I didn’t know him. I knew him as a coach, that he played for Manchester United and Everton and the national team but the first time I saw him was in Manchester.

“I had heard a lot of stories about him but from the first training session he did what I asked. He was open and he wanted to perform.

“He has had an unlucky season because he was injured and then ill but, when fit, he has always played for me because I was looking for balance and he gives me a lot of balance. When he plays as he does, I cannot change  [drop] him.”