Van Gaal: I made a quality decision and now I can laugh

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The Manchester United manager feels vindicated that his switch back to a three-man defence was the right move, though noting that he would have been castigated for it after a loss

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says that he can now “laugh” after his “quality decision” to revert to a three-at-the-back formation saw his side beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

With injuries continuing to plague his squad, the Dutchman deployed youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett alongside Chris Smalling in central defence, with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw on the flanks.

The Red Devils had seen an upturn in results since switching to a four-man back line in early September but Van Gaal now feels vindicated, though noting that he would have been castigated for the same decision if the result had gone the other way.

“If Arsenal had scored in the first 20 minutes, you would be asking about why I picked three defenders – but now I can laugh,” he observed to reporters.

“I am confident I made the right decision. To make it before the match, that’s a quality decision. I can say that now, that’s the life of a coach. The result always gives you the reason or not.

“I have to say I cannot do other things because I don’t have many players. I think the players have done fantastic. Blackett, McNair and Shaw – how old are they?

“I hope some players come back from injuries because it’s unbelievably difficult to create consistency in the team,” he continued. “Every week I have to change my lineup. That is not always good to create ultimatism in the team.”
Match Stats — Team Stats
ArsenalARSENALV.MANCHESTER UNITED
AttackGeneral PlayDistributionDefence & Discipline
Attack

Goals
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
1 33.3%66.7% 2
Total Shots
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
23 65.7%34.3% 12
Shots On Target
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
9 81.8%18.2% 2
Blocked Shots
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
6 60%40% 4
Shots from outside the box
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
9 75%25% 3
Shots from inside the box
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
14 60.9%39.1% 9
Shot Accuracy (excluding blocked shots)
Arsenal Comparison Manchester United
52.9% 67.9%32.1% 25%
Arsenal dominated much of the first half and squandered chances to take the lead, leaving the United boss critical of his side’s ball retention.

He remarked: “I was not pleased with the way we played in the first half but, of course, it was an away game against a top team and we have won so, OK, I can say yes, it’s my best victory [at United].

“In the first 35 minutes we gave the ball away so easily; that’s not possible for a top team. Arsenal created a lot of chances but fortunately we have a very good goalkeeper [in David de Gea]. After the first 35 minutes, you saw us coming back in the game.

“That’s what I said at half-time. When we keep the ball, when we show confidence, then we shall score goals.

“Ball possession is always more in the mind of the players or the stomach of the players. You can’t train it in a direct way – you have to give them the freedom to do it.”

De Gea was widely praised for his performance on Saturday but, despite the Spaniard’s rave reviews all season, Van Gaal believes that there is plenty to improve about his performance.

“He has quality. I’m used to his quality [but] he can improve also, in other aspects of his game,” the manager added. “When I say that, you think I’m crazy but I’m not crazy.”

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