Despite a scoreless draw with Inter on Tuesday, Manchester United came through with a win on penalties as Louis van Gaal lauded his side's defensive performance.
Van Gaal ‘very pleased’ as Zaha, Kagawa make case and United draw Inter Milan
Manchester United remained undefeated under new Dutch manager Louis van Gaal after defeating Inter Milan 5-3 on penalty kicks Tuesday following a goal-less draw.
Scouting striker talent for an English Premier League season only 18 days away, Van Gaal gave Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Zaha and Japan’s Shinji Kagawa a look in the second half and kept Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, reportedly being eyed for a transfer deal to Inter, on the bench until late.
United outscored their opponents 10-2 in their previous two matches, but Van Gaal took more pleasure in allowing Inter only one shot on goal.
“I am very pleased,” Van Gaal said. “I think we played by far the best match of our sequence of three. We created I think six (or) seven chances, so then it is seven against one, and I was very pleased with our ball possession. It was much better than the other matches.”
United, which debuted new blue uniforms, began the US pre-season tour with a 7-0 romp over the hosts LA Galaxy last Wednesday and edged AS Roma 3-2 at Denver three days ago.
As a crowd of 61,238 watched, Inter’s Marco Andreolli slammed a shot off the crossbar in the shootout to leave United ahead 4-3 and United captain Darren Fletcher followed by kicking home the decider.
“Fletcher hit the post in training so it’s also a little bit of luck, but we deserved the victory, I think,” Van Gaal said.
Hernandez, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverly and Shinji Kagawa also scored in the shootout for United, who continue the American tour Saturday against Real Madrid at Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a US record football crowd of more than 100,000 is expected.
Chants for “Chicharito” were rewarded with striker Hernandez’s insertion by Van Gaal in the 78th minute.
Fredy Guarin, the Colombian midfielder for Inter who has been linked to a possible transfer deal for Hernandez, entered in the 84th minute.
Guarin blasted a free kick in the 85th minute that forced a leaping right-handed save by United second-half goalkeeper David de Gea.
All Van Gaal would say of Hernandez was, “He’s a player of Manchester United at this moment.”
On Kagawa, whom the manager has tested at finisher and playmaker roles, Van Gaal said he was pleased with his forward work.
“He did it much better than in the two matches before,” Van Gaal said.
Zaha, a 21-year-old winger and former Crystal Palace standout, took the field in the second half hoping to prove he could help the club and missed his best shot on the short side in the 90th minute.
“I played all right. I’m happy,” Zaha said. “It’s not as much fun as being a winger but I’ll take it.
“There’s so much pressure on me. Every chance you get you have to take. There are so many players here.”
Van Gaal liked what he saw from Zaha.
“I was pleased with his performance,” Van Gaal said. “We have to see and wait – he has a lot of competition with the other strikers.”
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are among those who could push Zaha into a loan, transfer or sale but the African says he wants to stay and that Van Gaal has made him better.
“He’s a good manager,” Zaha said. “He will help me discover what I can do.
“All I have done is what he has asked. I’ve worked hard. That’s what he told me to do. All I can do is work hard. It’s a clean slate for me.
“Last year I made advancements in my game. I just want to play for Manchester United. Hopefully this will be my chance.”
But Zaha is realistic as well.
“Something I’ve learned, if you’re not the manager’s cup of tea then you aren’t,” he said.
Van Gaal also gave a peek into United’s search for defensive reinforcements.
“We are looking for defenders because a lot of defenders have gone and then we have to replace them,” he said. “But I like also (current players) Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett.”
United had a reunion of sorts with one former defender, Nemanja Vidic, now playing for Inter.
The 32-year-old Serbian defender spent eight seasons at Manchester United, serving as captain from 2010 until his contract ended last month and he joined the Italian club.
Inter, like United, are looking to bounce back after finishing fifth in their 2013/14 Serie A campaign.
Given that, and the absence of key striker Rodrigo Palacio, who played for World Cup finalists Argentina, coach Walter Mazzarri appeared equally happy with his side’s effort.
“We obviously don’t have our full squad yet,” Mazzarri said through an interpreter. “Man U had almost their full squad. The team that had played very well and beaten Roma and Galaxy. So this was a pretty even match, and I am very happy with the performance with our team.”
The game attracted a crowd of 61,238, and most wore United’s Red and White. But the loudest ovation during pregame introductions went to Vidic.
“It was a pleasure to see a player that was welcomed back even though he left a team,” Mazzarri said. “So yes, it was very nice to see. They are things that are very good for football.”
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