Juan Mata says Manchester United’s players are getting used to Louis van Gaal’s methods and starting to gain an identity as a team.
It was reported by The Times on Tuesday that United’s players were ‘baffled’ by Van Gaal’s tactics against Arsenal on Sunday, with the Dutchman apparently ignoring his squad’s plea to adopt the counter-attacking style that saw them win at Emirates Stadium in November.
Van Gaal also has a reputation for being something of a prickly character and has fallen out with both Marcos Rojo and Victor Valdes at Old Trafford. Mata, however, has spoken out in support of his manager.
Speaking on Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Mata said: “He is honest and straight. If he has something bad to tell you he tells you to your face. But he will also give you a kiss and a hug if you have done something right. I like him as a coach but it is important to me that my coaches are good people too and he is. What you see is what you get with him.
“It’s the second season with Van Gaal and we now know more about him and how he is likely to react to situations. Bit by bit we are gaining an identity as a team again.”
United slipped from first to third after losing 3-0 at Arsenal, but Mata is taking heart from the inconsistency of other teams, with the Gunners and Manchester City also beaten twice already in the Premier League this season.
“All the teams are slipping up here or there,” Mata said. “When we faced Arsenal at the weekend we were leaders for the first time in a long time. It would be great to win something; it is what the fans are used to. The principal object is to get into the top four again but it would be fantastic to lift a trophy this season.
“As far as my own form is concerned, I feel good. It’s been a good start to the season and for me personally playing in every game, that continuity helps so much in terms of confidence.”
Mata also reserved praise for Anthony Martial, who has made a big impact at Old Trafford since his big-money move from Monaco at the end of the transfer window.
“Martial has everything,” Mata added. “He is tall, powerful, quick, he links up the play well and he scores goals. He could be very, very big and he’s only 19. He’s a player for now and for the future.”
Discuss this on the new-look Manchester United Your Say forum.