Louis van Gaal declared himself a “happy coach” after his Manchester United team climbed to the top of the table with a 3-0 win over Sunderland.
Manchester City’s defeat at Tottenham at lunchtime opened the door for United to move to the summit and they grasped the opportunity thanks to goals from Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney, who ended a 999-minute Premier League goal drought.
Depay ended Sunderland’s stubborn resistance by converting Mata’s square pass and after Rooney had netted in the first minute of the second half there was no way back for the Black Cats, who conceded a final goal in the last minute of normal time.
“Last season at this stage I think we were in 13th position in the league table, so I’m a happy coach,” the United manager said.
Van Gaal has had his doubters during his 14-month spell in charge, but United are now top of the table for the first time since they beat Swansea 4-1 in David Moyes’ first game in charge on August 18 2013.
United’s stay at the top of the pile then, just like Moyes’ tenure, was a brief one – they were knocked off the top the following day – but Van Gaal will be hoping his team can remain there for the rest of the season.
The Dutchman admits that will not be easy, however.
“I think to continue (at the top) is very difficult in this league,” Van Gaal added.
“But it is better than last year when we had 13 points after 10 matches and you have to chase. When we chased we were fourth.
“Last year we had the feeling we could win the league.
“This year it is a big difference because you can start better from the top than the bottom.”
Depay’s first Premier League strike was the pick of the goals. The Dutchman wandered free of his marker to tap in after Daley Blind had picked out Mata with a peach of a long pass.
The fact that Depay scored in the fourth minute of first-half injury time was appropriate, according to Van Gaal, because he felt Sunderland were guilty of time-wasting.
He said: “I was very happy with the goal in extra-time because they punished themselves. They were always wasting time and the referee was not reacting to that.”