Louis van Gaal feels he will need far longer to turn Manchester United’s fortunes around despite completing the preseason with six wins out of six.
United rounded off their schedule of preseason fixtures with a 2-1 win over Valencia on Tuesday, giving the Dutchman, who took over after leading the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup last month, victory in his first match as Red Devils boss at Old Trafford.
They now face Swansea in their Premier League opener at home on Saturday, but Van Gaal is unsure whether Jonny Evans, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia, who sat out Tuesday’s match through injury, will be available.
With those three sidelined, Van Gaal had Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett at centre back, with Ashley Young and Reece James playing as wing-backs and Michael Keane the only defender on the bench against Spanish side Valencia.
Left back Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera have been the only new signings so far this preseason, although United are widely reported to have made a £16 million (HK$207 million) offer for Sporting Lisbon’s 24-year-old Argentina centre back Marcos Rojo.
Including a goalless draw against Inter Milan, which they went on to win on penalties, United recorded victories over LA Galaxy, Roma, Real Madrid and bitter rivals Liverpool during their preseason campaign.
However, Van Gaal believes the win over Valencia, secured with an injury-time goal from substitute Marouane Fellaini, was the worst performance yet as United get to grips with his ideas.
And he warned fans not to expect too much early in his United reign, with the club looking to bounce back after finishing, by their standards, a lowly seventh in the Premier League last term, with David Moyes sacked as manager before seeing out his first season in charge despite being retired boss Alex Ferguson’s chosen successor.
“It was fantastic,” said Van Gaal of the way he was greeted by United’s fans.
“Coming on the pitch and they are shouting and screaming your name, but there’s also big pressure because they expect a lot and you can’t change everything in three or four weeks and the players can’t change either.”