Louis van Gaal eyes Man Utd improvement after nervy Wolfsburg win
Last Updated: 01/10/15 1:16pm
Louis van Gaal was pleased to see Manchester United get three Champions League points on the board with their 2-1 win over Wolfsburg but stressed there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The result at Old Trafford saw United bounce back from the 2-1 loss to PSV Eindhoven they suffered in their Group B opener, and was a fourth straight victory in all competitions for the Red Devils, who are top of the Premier League.
But it was not entirely convincing, the hosts having to come from behind after Daniel Caligiuri's fourth-minute strike and - following Juan Mata's penalty and a Chris Smalling goal - hang on to their lead towards the end.
"We have to keep our feet on the ground and we have to improve a lot to be at the top of Europe," said Van Gaal.
"We have beaten Wolfsburg, I am very happy and the players are very happy, but we have to improve on the second-half performance and we have to know that, and I have said that also to the players.
"That is why we are here - to improve ourselves so we win every game. We could have won this game in a better way.
"However, I think we deserved to win because we created much more chances that Wolfsburg."
Van Gaal felt United got lucky when they were awarded the 34th-minute spot-kick for a handball by Caligiuri.
And while he blamed fatigue for some our their sloppy play, he did praise his side's team spirit.
"There are referees who are not whistling for such an incident so then you are lucky that he is whistling," Van Gaal said of the handball.
"But in the first half I was very pleased. We created so many chances - but then you don't finish them, and that is unlucky.
"Then in the second half we continued with our game spirit and made a beautiful goal.
"But after that it was not good anymore, which is remarkable because keeping possession is something we have done very well for the last five or six matches.
"We had given a lot in the first half, and also, [it is about] the accumulation of the matches in the last weeks because I cannot understand [otherwise] why we would give the ball away so easily.
"But I think also the team spirit still kept us in the match."
Mata back to his best
We take a closer look at Juan Mata's impressive start to the season with Manchester United.
Mata scored the penalty and provided a delightful tee-up for Smalling's 53rd-minute sliding finish in an eye-catching performance by the forward.
Asked about Mata's display, Van Gaal said: "I don't speak about individual performances but I have seen Mata playing better than today.
"I can say as a manager he played very well and I agree with you - but I don't agree with you."
Van Gaal also stressed it had been his call that Mata would take the penalty over Wayne Rooney, adding: "I communicate always with my players - but I make the decisions."
The Dutchman added further praise for Smalling, saying: "I think he played a very good match, especially defensively, and the way he scored a goal was outstanding."
Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking, meanwhile, thought United should have finished with 10 men.
"I think it was a penalty but that we were unlucky there," Hecking said.
"And I thought the second goal was unlucky - as we say in Germany, a 'rubbish goal' - but then we were on top again and really could and perhaps should have scored again.
"In the 84th minute there was a foul on Julian Draxler that really should have been another yellow card [for Morgan Schneiderlin], so once again we just lacked that bit of luck at the end. But I'm optimistic we can build on this strong performance."