Louis van Gaal: Manchester United manager hails 'important' win

Manchester United players celebrate
Manchester United moved five points clear of Liverpool, who remain fifth in the table

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal described his side's victory over Liverpool as "one of the most important moments" in his career.

Fourth-placed United went five points clear of their rivals with a narrow 2-1 Premier League win at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice for the Red Devils, including a spectacular scissor kick, before Daniel Sturridge's strike.

"We are playing like a team more than ever and played very good football in the first half," Van Gaal said.

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Alan Shearer: "United moved the ball quickly and they passed it well too - their one or two-touch football has clearly improved massively of late. But the most impressive part of their performance in the first 45 minutes at Anfield was their intensity when they did not have possession."
Read more: 'How Van Gaal got it right again'

Van Gaal's impressive CV

The victory could prove to be a significant one for Manchester United come the end of the season, and is the latest highlight in Van Gaal's career.

The Dutchman was appointed manager last May following the sacking of predecessor David Moyes.

The 63-year-old has previously managed in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, winning the league titles and domestic cups in all three countries with Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

He also won the Champions League with Ajax in 1994-95, and was set an objective of qualifying for the competition with the Old Trafford side.

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Despite coming in for criticism for a perceived long-ball style of play, United have achieved impressive back-to-back league wins over Tottenham and Liverpool.

"Liverpool were in fantastic shape and we beat them with their own weapons, with pressure on the ball," Van Gaal said.

Liverpool played most of the second half with 10 men after captain Steven Gerrard was shown a red card just 38 seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute for stamping on Ander Herrera.

"In the second half, despite having an extra player, we lost our pressure and lost our shape," Van Gaal said.

"We forgot to press the ball and because of that Liverpool could play more easily than the first half and that's not good.

"But the moment to win is very important, one of the most important moments in my career."

'Marvellous Mata'

Juan Mata
Juan Mata scored a stunning scissor-kick goal for Manchester United

Spaniard Mata made his first start since January in last weekend's 3-0 victory over Tottenham, and although winger Angel Di Maria returned from suspension, Mata kept his place in the starting XI against Brendan Rodgers' side.

The former Chelsea man repaid his manager's faith with a brace, and Van Gaal was full of praise.

"Juan is one of my better players," he said. "I looked for balance and now I have found a position where he plays very good and he also scores two goals and marvellous goals."

Mata added: "It has to be a special day for me. I am very happy today, not just because of the goals but the team's performance. It was a massive game and we took three points."

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