Louis van Gaal: Manchester United boss excited by side's potential

Louis van Gaal and Ryan Giggs on the Manchester United
Louis van Gaal is assisted at Old Trafford by Ryan Giggs (left) who made 672 appearances as a player for the club

Manager Louis van Gaal says Manchester United have climbed into the Premier League top four despite not playing well for a whole match this season.

The Red Devils beat Everton 2-1 to return to the Champions League places for the first time in more than a year.

"I told my players, 'We are not playing well but we are fourth in the table - so what will happen when we do play well?'" said Van Gaal.

He added it was "strange" that United have tended to fade out of games.

"We played well for one half, but we have to do it 90 minutes," he said. "We haven't defended well. We have to improve our organisation.

De Gea was fantastic - Van Gaal

"It's a little bit strange that every time the first half is very good. We started very good and the the second half is so different."

While United recorded 10 shots to Everton's two in the first half at Old Trafford, they managed only five to the visitors eight after the break with David De Gea producing a string of late saves to preserve their narrow lead.

They also survived late pressure from West Ham to win last weekend and collapsed to a 5-3 defeat away to Leicester having led 3-1 in their previous game.

Despite struggling to maintain the standard of play across a whole 90 minutes, United are now at their highest position in the Premier League since they drew 0-0 with Chelsea in August 2013.

Chief executive Ed Woodward has set Louis van Gaal a target of a top-three finish to guarantee the club's return to the Champions League group stages. Their failure to qualify for the competition last season prompted the sacking of Van Gaal's predecessor David Moyes.

First half good, second half not so good
Manchester United had 52% of possession in the first half, but only 45% in the second.Their passing accuracy dropped from 89% to 80% after the break

United play West Brom, Chelsea, Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Arsenal after the forthcoming international break, but Van Gaal, who expressed concern over United's globe-trotting pre-season itinerary, says his players might not be at freshest for the trip to the Hawthorns.

Argentina internationals Angel Di Maria and Marcos Rojo are flying to China to play against Brazil next week before they take on Hong Kong three days later.

"They are coming back with jetlag so I cannot train at once and then I have to wait," said Van Gaal, who led the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-final in the summer.

"That is my problem. I was also a national coach but it is not so easy as everybody thinks."