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Van Gaal impresses United’s record signing

Juan MataJuan Mata admitted Manchester United players were given a first glimpse of what to expect from Louis Van Gaal when he’s disappointed, after the Dutchman made clear he was far from impressed by his team’s 3-2 win over AS Roma in Denver on Saturday.

United won their inaugural match in the International Champions Cup but looked far from their best and almost scuppered a three-goal lead as Roma scored twice in the last 20 minutes, leading Van Gaal to criticise some of his players’ performances, including Mata’s. However, far from seeking excuses for his performance, the Spaniard insisted Van Gaal’s demand for perfection and almost obsessive attention to detail is exactly what United need.

“After the game when we had given two goals away he was not very happy, but I think his way is that of a great manager,” said Mata in an interview with the Guardian.

“He is very honest with the players, he says what he thinks and has a clear way of understanding football. We feel the manager is a great manager who has brought a strong mentality. This club is made for a winning mentality and I think 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. He is right to be demanding. As a player you want a coach like this, always demanding more and to play better and try to win the games earlier or in a different way.”

United looked sluggish and off the pace against Roma and even though they raced into a 3-0 lead, they looked second best for large spells of the game and Mata admitted the players are still trying to come to terms with a new philosophy.

“The first 15 to 20 minutes we played a bit slow and it was difficult because the pitch was dry. But we tried to perform how the manager wants,” said the Spaniard.

“It is my first pre-season with Manchester United and my first tour with the club and I am trying to get ready for the first game, against Swansea.”

United’s record signing, however, believes this season will see him at his best, after the first couple of months of his United career under David Moyes were largely hit and miss.

“I will try my best, during the season hopefully we can play good football and I can do assists and score goals because that is what I have to do,” said the former Chelsea player. “It was difficult last season, when I arrived it was a difficult time for the club. We had changed managers but didn’t get the results.

“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 Rafa Benítez [at Chelsea].”

Mata had also nice words for Ander Herrera, who has impressed in his first two appearances in a red shirt. “He is a very, very good midfielder. He is a good guy, my friend, we have known each other since we were 15,” said Mata. “He is top quality, he can play quick, slow, dictate the rhythm of a game. He can score as well. He is a very complete midfielder and can bring these qualities to the team.”