Van Gaal “shocked” by performance


Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Louis van Gaal was “shocked” by Manchester United’s poor first-half performance against Burnley according to Chris Smalling, who labelled the display as their worst of the season.

Smalling scored a brace and Robin van Persie converted an 82nd minute penalty on Wednesday as United beat Burnley to move up to third in the Barclays Premier League.

Van Gaal’s team have lost just once in 18 matches but a section of United’s fan base is becoming dissatisfied with the team’s style of play, which is often laboured and unproductive.

That was certainly the case against the Clarets, who passed the ball better and looked more incisive at Old Trafford in the first half even though their team cost a fraction of Van Gaal’s expensively-assembled starting XI.

Van Gaal was unhappy with his team at half-time and the United boss made his players acutely aware of his feelings in the dressing room.

“I think the manager was shocked at half-time,” Smalling said.

“The manager said in the dressing room that the first half was unacceptable and all the players know that.

“It wasn’t a 3-1 scoreline game. Especially in that first half, we all let ourselves down. We could have played much better.

“That the first half was probably the worst we’ve had all season, we were lucky to go into the break with a lead.

“We knew that it wasn’t good enough in the first half. We were lucky to get away with it, and we had to stand up and fight in the second-half.”

Over the next 24 hours, Van Gaal is set to meet with the club’s co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer, who were at the Burnley match, to discuss plans for the summer.

With United 12 points behind Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea, the FA Cup looks to be the only chance the Dutchman has of ending his first season at Old Trafford with a trophy.

As such, United cannot afford another repeat performance on Monday when they travel to League One side Preston in the fifth round.

“We need to make sure that we come out of the blocks quickly against Preston,” Smalling added.

“There is [more to come from us]. But If we can win games playing that badly, then it shows that if we do play well and it all clicks, then there will be a lot better performances at Old Trafford, that’s for sure.”

The two positives for Smalling were the improvement of United’s play in the second half and the fact that he managed to get on the scoresheet twice.

The defender is not used to scoring so much – this was his first career brace – but he was happy to find the net just 22 seconds after replacing Phil Jones, who hobbled off with a knee injury, and head United into 2-1 lead after Danny Ings’ equaliser.

“It’s not something I’m used to, but because of our first-half performance I couldn’t get too overjoyed at half-time,” the United defender added.

“From one to 11, I don’t think we were good enough, but it’s always nice to score.

“It was great to get the (second) goal before half-time because I think that settled us, and we were more composed after the break. It was a lot better, and a bit more like Manchester United.”

Van Gaal said he was worried that Jones is set for another lengthy layoff bu t the good news for United is that the head injury Daley Blind suffered in the first half was only minor and he looks set to feature against Preston.

“In the last couple of games we’ve been able to have a fully-fit squad, so it’s unfortunate that we’ve picked up a couple of injuries,” Smalling said.

“It seems that whenever someone comes back, another drops out. It’s been unfortunate, but hopefully they [Blind and Jones] won’t be out for long.”

Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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