MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes his new-look team can make their presence felt at the top end of the Premier League once they hit top form after a 2-1 win over Everton.
Goals from Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – his first for the club – were just enough to give United a third successive home win that owed much to goalkeeper David de Gea, whose outstanding display included a penalty save from Everton’s England international Leighton Baines.
But van Gaal knows his side, now fourth in the table ahead of the international break, can and must do better.
“That is what I have told my players. We are not playing good but we are already fourth in the table. What is coming when we are playing well?” he said.
“But we have to do it 90 minutes. We have played very good for 45 minutes already, sometimes for 50 or 60, but we have to do it for 90 and that needs time,” explained the Dutchman.
United should have had more to show than di Maria’s third goal of the season for their first-half domination. The Argentina international curled home a 27th-minute shot in another impressive performance.
But Falcao and Robin van Persie, captain in place of the suspended Wayne Rooney, squandered chances before de Gea saved from Baines as he missed his first Premier League penalty in 15 attempts.
Falcao finally got the first goal of his loan spell from AS Monaco when diverting di Maria’s shot shortly after the hour mark.
However, it took three outstanding late saves from De Gea to deny substitutes Leon Osman, twice, and Bryan Oviedo an equaliser, with van Gaal happy to acknowledge the keeper’s key contribution.
“Yes of course,” added the United manager. “At the end of the first half he stopped a penalty so that was good.
“He did very well in the last 15 minutes with three shots outside the box which are always difficult because a lot of players are in front of him, so his view is not always good.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez was disappointed referee Kevin Friend allowed play to go on in the build-up to United’s winning goal, with South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar down on the ground and waiting to be substituted.
Everton have won just one Premier League game so far this season and, having finished fifth last term, now find themselves hovering above the relegation zone.
The defeat was made worse by an ankle injury suffered by John Stones that ruled the centre-back out of England’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia.
But Martinez refused to blame injuries or the effects of a trip to Russia to play in the Europa League on Thursday for the Merseysiders’ latest loss.