Shocked Manchester United players after the opening round loss. Photo: AP
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Louis Van Gaal said Manchester United's confidence was "smashed" following a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City in his first match as manager.
Van Gaal said the loss, which laid bare the scale of the task he faces after succeeding David Moyes, was the worst possible start to his reign. He and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will now face renewed pressure to improve the club's squad before the transfer window closes, although the manager insisted his side could still contend for the title.
"It cannot be worse": Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal. Photo: AFP
He said: "We never played as a team. That's our error. It is of course very disappointing. For the players, the fans, for me, for my staff. When you have preparation time and you win everything [in pre-season, with five victories] and your first match you lose, it cannot be worse, I believe. And also in the process it is not good because we have built up a lot of confidence and it shall be smashed down because of this result. But we have to know it is only one game of many games and you shall be not the champions at this moment. You shall be the champion in May. "
He added: "In the first-half I have seen a lot of players very nervous and making the wrong choices and that is a pity. These players have to use that expectation because that is Manchester United. You have to cope with that pressure."
United retain an interest in signing Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria, Sporting Lisbon's Marcelo Rojo, plus the Roma centre-half Mehdi Benatia and Ajax's versatile Daley Blind. Van Gaal said the result had not affected his desire to buy players. "Yes, but I have thought that before the match also. That defeat is not the difference. I know in what positions we need better players but you have to buy only when the player can fulfil the way of playing that I ask. We have to wait and see."
Moves for Di Maria and Benatia are still possible but both are complicated, as is the Rojo deal. United have been encouraged to bid for Di Maria after Paris St Germain's attempts to sign him stalled but sources insist that "the numbers do not work" at this point, with a fee in excess of £50 million ($A53.7 million) being asked for. United are being quoted around £30 million ($A89.5 million) for Benatia, which they are unlikely to agree to.
United remain interested in Rojo, who is keen to move to Old Trafford, but the £15 million ($A26.9 million) deal has been stalled because of a row between his club and agent. Another option is the Dutch international Blind who was in Van Gaal's team for the World Cup and can play anywhere in defence or as a holding midfielder.
Moyes, who was a television analyst yesterday and who oversaw a 4-1 win over Swansea in his first game at United, had sympathy with his successor.
"Everybody knew it was going to take time," he said. "Taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson for anybody, it would take time. Van Gaal will need the time to do the job as well. He'll need to have that opportunity to change things and get a team he wants."