• Manchester United 1-0 Crystal Palace

Van Gaal hails defensive resolve in United win

ESPN staff
November 8, 2014
Juan Mata came off the bench to score the winning goal for Manchester United © Getty Images

Louis van Gaal praised Manchester United's resolve as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday and moved up to sixth place in the Premier League.

United struggled to find a way past Neil Warnock's side at Old Trafford in the first half, with substitute Juan Mata finally breaking the deadlock in the 67th minute with a deflected 20-yard effort.

Injuries to key defenders forced Van Gaal to field a centre-back pairing of 19-year-old Paddy McNair and midfielder Daley Blind, but the manager expressed his relief at their first clean sheet in seven games for the win.

"In the first half we gave only one chance away and it was a miscommunication between McNair and Blind," Van Gaal said of a first-half chance for Palace's Fraizer Campbell. "But in the second half we scored and that is the most important thing.

"After that, we tried to kill the game, we had to kill the game for the first time. So I am very happy. In spite of the fact we killed the game, we created a lot of chances. [Wayne] Rooney could have scored, Mata could have scored for the second time and [Robin] Van Persie also. We did it well because three points was very important. Now we have an international break after a victory, which is always better."

Van Gaal believes Palace's defensive set-up made it difficult for his creative players, with Angel Di Maria struggling to find space before eventually creating Mata's decisive goal.

"For [Di Maria] it was difficult because the space was very small," he added. "That was difficult for every player, but especially if you are a player who likes to dribble with the ball. You have to dribble through a lot of players so it was more of a passing game. We did that in the first half very well but didn't score. Then in the second half we did score.

"They were defending and not attacking, but they have very quick strikers and you have to always pay attention to that. You have always one moment and that moment came in the first half and it could have been a goal for Palace with the lob over [David] de Gea. OK, we were lucky that time, but I think we deserved to win."

Mata came off the bench to score his third league goal of the season, and Van Gaal hailed the playmaker's adaptability to hand United the win.

"He didn't change the formation or the style of play but he scored, and that's always the most important thing," he added. "When you score, you win the game. Because of that we won. So I am happy with that."

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