• Premier League

Van Gaal has made United mentally stronger

ESPN staff
July 28, 2014
Louis van Gaal expresses his frustration

Juan Mata says Louis van Gaal is reviving Manchester United's winning mentality after a season in which they appeared to go soft.

The playmaker, who is relishing the chance to claim the No.10 position under the new manager, believes the club's traditional resilience is returning and will stand them in good stead for the new season.

"He is right to be demanding," Mata said after finding out Van Gaal's standards for training and even pre-season friendlies.

"As a player you want a coach like this - always demanding more, wanting us to play better and trying to win the games earlier or in a different way.

"We feel the manager is a great manager who has brought a strong mentality. This club is made for a winning mentality and he has it. He has had success in different countries.

"We are happy with him and the way he works. Everything is new but we are adapting well to his style of football."

United's strength waned last season under the management of David Moyes and the aura of invincibility which so often saw them through at Old Trafford during the Sir Alex Ferguson era was conspicuous by its absence.

Their apparently fading strength of will meant they finished the season in seventh place, out of Europe and without any silverware.

Van Gaal has been in charge for just two games at United - a 7-0 win against LA Galaxy and a 3-2 victory against Roma in friendlies on their US tour - but he has already started to set new standards.

Players are often positive about a new manager, not least because they want to impress and secure their futures, but Mata has more reason than many at United to be pleased with the change at the top.

He has been given the chance under Van Gaal to prove himself in his favoured No.10 spot and the initial signs, with Wayne Rooney also firing, are encouraging.

"When I arrived it was a difficult time for the club," said Mata, United's £37.1 million record signing from Chelsea last January who spent much of his time under Moyes playing out wide.

"But we are starting a new season with a new manager and we aim to put the club back where it deserves to be - and that is fighting at the top.

"Things are changing and everyone is finding their new role in the team. But if I play behind the two strikers, I feel comfortable.

"I have played on the left or right but my best season was when I played in that position under [Rafael] Benitez [at Chelsea]."

Juan Mata enjoyed his best season in England as in the role of playmaker © Getty Images
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