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Louis van Gaal all smiles as ‘balanced’ Manchester United reach summit

These are increasingly happy times for Manchester United. From Louis van Gaal, the manager whose “philosophy” is finally yielding consistent returns, right down to the security detail at Old Trafford.

Manchester United Joan Mata, Memphis Depay, Rooney

This was a regulation victory over Dick Advocaat’s strugglers and it gave Van Gaal a spring in his step and all of the United family a boost, according to the Dutchman. “I said to the security guy: ‘You are now a security guy of a club that’s top of the league’. And that makes a huge difference. Also for him,” Van Gaal quipped. “He is proud and I am proud. Last week it was the first time I was second. He was smiling.”

The win took United top of the Premier League for the first time proper since Sir Alex Ferguson made the club champions in May 2013. David Moyes’s United were top after the opening match of the following season but they were immediately dislodged. Van Gaal’s 2015-16 vintage are the frontrunners after seven matches.

It is still early but they should be taken seriously as contenders. They have dropped only five points from the 21 on offer, and lead the table by a point from Manchester City.

Goals from Memphis Depay, in first-half added time – his maiden Premier League strike – Wayne Rooney, seconds after the break to end his competition drought on 999 minutes, and Juan Mata, at the close, secured a win which was particularly pleasing for United given the struggles of their rivals. City were hammered at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea endured another difficult game, this time at St James’ Park, but Van Gaal is too seasoned a competitor to be overly jubilant just yet.

After Wednesday’s Champions League game against Wolfsburg, United are about to embark on an October in which they are at home once – and that is the derby against City – and they begin it with a visit to Arsenal on Sunday. Van Gaal’s menwon at the Emirates Stadium last season but the manager knows repeating the feat will not be easy and brushed off the notion that the month will show precisely how good United are. Following Arsenal and the international break, United are at Everton, have to travel to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, host City, and then end the month at Crystal Palace.

“I know exactly where I stand,” he said. “I have said it before and six weeks ago the same answers. We have a good team but we can win and lose. You need luck but the balance of the team is better than last season. Because of that we need to win our games. I don’t have to wait until October. We shall improve every week, yes. I don’t see it every week but I see [generally] that we are better as a team and a selection.

“I rotate more now because I can. Last year in my opinion I didn’t have the balance. I have let 20 or 25 players go. So it’s a new team. You need luck. Goals are so important. We scored in the last minute of the half so my approach at half-time was therefore much different. It changes everything. I talk in another way.

“How we go back on the field it’s so important. Look at [the match against] Swansea. We dominated for 90 minutes but had five minutes when we didn’t and we lost.”

For Advocaat, meanwhile, things are looking bleak. This was a fifth defeat in seven league games. Sunderland have drawn the other two and currently prop up the table. “What we have to think about is do we need to change things,” said the manager. “Last year we had workers, I think. That also didn’t bring results.

“Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe have struggled as lone strikers. We definitely have to look at a change of formation. Now we have to ask do we go on with 4-3-3 or do we have to find another solution? Do we have to play more tight?”

He added: “I’d never managed a team at the bottom of the table until last year.” Then, the Dutchman rescued Sunderland from relegation. A repeat may be difficult. – the guardian –

Man of the match Daley Blind (Manchester United)

 

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