United ‘get­ting there’

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MANCH­ESTER — Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal feels his side are get­ting closer to the Premier League’s lead­ing teams de­spite hav­ing made their worst start to a sea­son since 1986.

After draw­ing 1-1 with league lead­ers Chelsea the pre­vi­ous week­end, United lost 1-0 at derby ri­vals Manch­ester City on Sun­day, with Ser­gio Aguero scor­ing the win­ning goal after United de­fender Chris Small­ing was sent off.

United also lost Ar­gen­tine cen­tre-back Mar­cos Rojo to a dis­lo­cated shoul­der, but although the re­sult left the 20-time cham­pi­ons 13 points adrift of Chelsea, Van Gaal be­lieves they are mak­ing progress.

“In spite of all the in­juries, we were very close with Chelsea last week and also this week we were very close, but not close enough, and we have to make steps still to im­prove,” he said.

Aguero struck in the 63rd minute after Small­ing was shown two yel­low cards in the first half for at­tempt­ing to block a clear­ance by Joe Hart and then slid­ing in on James Mil­ner, but United fin­ished the match strongly.

“Of course as a coach or as a man­ager you can be proud of the last 20 min­utes be­cause they showed un­be­liev­able willpower and we could have scored at that mo­ment,” said Van Gaal, who de­scribed Small­ing’s dis­missal as “stupid”.

“I have seen the willpower of this team that I said to the play­ers is fan­tas­tic, but we have still only 13 points out of 10 games and that is not so much.”

Van Gaal’s as­sess­ment of United’s dis­play was echoed by his cap­tain Wayne Rooney, who played as a deep-ly­ing num­ber 10 on his re­turn to the team after a three-match sus­pen­sion.

“We have to fo­cus on our­selves. You can see ev­ery week we are get­ting bet­ter,” the Eng­land striker told Sky Sports.

“We are not far away from be­ing back up there and be­ing a very good side. We came here for a re­sult and leave with no points, so we are dis­ap­pointed.”

City’s vic­tory brought them four con­sec­u­tive league suc­cesses over United for the first time since 1970 and ended a dam­ag­ing run of three matches with­out a win in all com­pe­ti­tions.

City man­ager Manuel Pel­le­grini , whose side had three strong penalty ap­peals waved away be­fore Aguero turned in Gael Clichy’s cut-back to claim his 10th goal of the sea­son, re­fused to crit­i­cise match of­fi­cial Michael Oliver, say­ing: “It is very dif­fi­cult to be a ref­eree.”

United fin­ished the game with mid­fielder Michael Car­rick and 19-year-old Paddy McNair at cen­tre-back, while an in­jury to Rafael da Silva meant that winger An­to­nio Va­len­cia started the game at right-back.

With Phil Jones and Jonny Evans cur­rently side­lined, Van Gaal has a de­fen­sive headache ahead of United’s next game at home to Crys­tal Palace, but he be­lieves there is suf­fi­cient depth in his squad to com­pen­sate.

“We have a lot of in­juries in de­fence, as you know, but you have also seen how Michael Car­rick has come in and Paddy Mcnair has come in,” said the Dutch­man.

“We have still 11 play­ers to play and also very good play­ers, so I don’t cry for that. It is some­times dif­fi­cult to se­lect the best team, but I think I can man­age that.”

Nov 8: Liver­pool v Chelsea, West Ham United v As­ton Villa, Manch­ester United v Crys­tal Palace, Southamp­ton v Le­ices­ter City, Burn­ley v Hull City, Queens Park Rangers v Manch­ester City.

Week­end fix­tures

Nov 9: Sun­der­land v Ever­ton, West Brom- wich Al­bion v New­cas­tle United,tot­ten­ham Hot­spur v Stoke City, Swansea City v Arse­nal.

Chris small­ing tack­les James Mil­ner to earn his sec­ond yel­low card.

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