Man Utd manager Louis van Gaal makes winning start at Old Trafford

By Richard WintonBBC Sport at Old Trafford
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Van Gaal was warmly greeted inside a packed Old Trafford

Marouane Fellaini's stoppage-time goal ensured Louis van Gaal ended his first home match in charge of Manchester United with a 2-1 victory over Valencia.

The Belgium international, who has struggled for form since joining from Everton last summer, brought the Old Trafford crowd to its feet with his late effort, but the Dutch manager stayed seated, scribbling furiously on a sheaf of A4 paper as he continued to plot ahead of the season opener here against Swansea City on Saturday.

That was in keeping with his approach on an encouraging evening for United.

While Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo patrolled the touchline, Van Gaal remained on the bench even when Darren Fletcher opened the scoring with a deflected 49th-minute strike and when Valencia drew level with 19 minutes remaining.

But the 63-year-old was far from inconspicuous. How could he be when a battery of photographers were recording his every twitch?

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (centre), assistant Ryan Giggs (left) and assistant Albert Stuivenberg (right)
Van Gaal sat next to Ryan Giggs (left) and fellow assistant Albert Stuivenberg

From the moment he emerged from the tunnel to a rousing reception, embraced mascot Fred the Red, and strode purposefully towards the dugouts while waving to the crowd, the erstwhile Netherlands coach was the centre of attention.

His reprise, 90 seconds after the second half began, saw Van Gaal high-fiving those in the front row of the stand as he walked past. Certainly, his stated aim of pleasing the supporters was being fulfilled.

There was no banner draped between the tiers of the stands in the manner of "The Chosen One" declaration that became a stick with which to beat predecessor David Moyes and no chants aimed towards Van Gaal apart from a murmur of approval that soundtracked much of what United did against their accomplished La Liga visitors.

Deployed in a 3-4-1-2 shape, United kept possession well and appeared to understand what the notoriously demanding coach was asking of them.

Midfielder Ander Herrera was combative and incisive as one of the central two, captain Wayne Rooney was lively despite missing a penalty and Fellaini offered an eye-catching cameo when he was introduced.

Van Gaal's record so far
WIN 7-0 v LA Galaxy
WIN 3-2 AS Roma
DRAW 0-0 Inter Milan
WIN 3-1 Real Madrid
WIN 3-1 Liverpool
WIN 2-1 Valencia

Question marks remain over the defence though, with the sporadic shakiness of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett highlighting why United have made a £15.9m bid for Sporting Lisbon's Marcos Rojo.

Indeed, it was a slip in concentration by Jones that allowed Rodrigo Moreno to steal in at the back post and direct a cross beyond keeper David De Gea and equalise after Fletcher's fierce shot over the helpless Diego Alves had given the home side the lead.

The visiting goalkeeper was then culpable for the late winner, charging from his goal to claim a long Blackett ball only to clatter into a defender and allow Fellaini to control on his chest and roll into an empty net.

Van Gaal later said the reception from fans was "fantastic", but warned them not to expect instant success: "There's also big pressure because they expect a lot and you can't change everything in three or four weeks, and the players can't change either.

"We have to wait and see and develop, and we need time. But we have won every game to now and that's fantastic when you see our opponents."

Man Utd: De Gea, James, Jones, Smalling, Blackett, Young, Fletcher, Herrera, Mata, Rooney, Hernandez. Subs: Amos, Cleverley, Kagawa, Fellaini, Lingard, Michael Keane, Januzaj.

Valencia: Diego Alves, Barragan, Vezo, Otamendi, Gaya, Parejo, Javi Fuego, Gomes, Feghouli, Alcacer, Rodrigo. Subs: Yoel, Piatti, Joao Pereira, De Paul, Guardado, Orban, Mustafi, Vinicius Araujo, Robert, Carles Gil, Domenech Jaume.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Van Gaal is introduced to the crowd at Old Trafford
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
The former Netherlands coach signs autographs en route to taking his place for the match
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher
Darren Fletcher opened the scoring for the home side
Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno
Rodrigo Moreno equalised for the Spanish La Liga club
Marouane Fellaini (centre)
Team-mates showed their happiness for Marouane Fellaini after he scored the late winner

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