The fact he is not lies not only in the fact that family man Van Gaal would prefer to spend the holiday period with his loved ones but also in an alarming injury list which added two more players to its ranks in this routine victory over pitiful Hull.
Angel di Maria limped off with a hamstring pull less than a quarter of an hour into the game while Wayne Rooney took hard knocks to the calf and knee from which he should recover in time for tomorrow’s visit of Stoke to Old Trafford.
The status of di Maria is less clear, although the playmaking winger will certainly miss the Stoke game. However, as the pair became the 41st and 42nd injuries sustained by United’s first team squad already this season, perhaps Van Gaal’s real complaint should be directed towards his club’s own medical and fitness staff rather than the Premier League fixture schedulers.
“I’m not happy because I do not agree with that, but I cannot change that,” said Van Gaal of the coming month’s fixture list. “Because I don’t think it’s good for the football players that they play within two days another match.
“In the December months, it shall be like that. We also have families. I also have a wife and kids and grandchildren and I cannot see them this Christmas.
“But, I want to work in the Premier League, I have to adapt and I shall adapt. I don’t think it is good for players, neither for the families.”
The visit of Stoke marks the first of seven league games United must play between the start of December and New Year’s Day, although Van Gaal’s side has the added advantage of no commitments in either Europe or the Capital One Cup to add further distractions — not that the Dutchman sees that as an advantage.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “It depends on the injuries and the other clubs are used to playing in the Champions League. You cannot say Chelsea are not used to playing in the Champions League, the Premier League, the League Cup and the FA Cup. They are used to that and they have all those selections for that. When you are challenged during the whole season, you become better and we have to train to become better.”
There is no doubt that, following a predictably traumatic start, United are, indeed, becoming better under van Gaal.
Robin van Persie, publicly criticised by his manager following victory at Arsenal last week, was much improved and scored an excellent second-half goal that supplemented first half efforts from Chris Smalling and Rooney.
Smalling, sent off and branded “stupid” by his manager following his dismissal in the derby defeat at the Etihad last month, turned in an accomplished display, even allowing for the paucity of opposition.
“Quite a lot of our wins this season have not been that complete performance but I think today we put on a 90 minute performance the manager wanted,” said Smalling.
“The manager has said it was our best game of the season and I think it was.”
There looks to be no quick fix for Steve Bruce’s Hull, with the manager even opting to leave talismanic midfielder Tom Huddlestone out of his starting line-up for the first time in a league game.
“I just thought he can have a look at it, he can sit out and have a look at it, freshen him up a little bit maybe and let’s hope it works,” explained Bruce. “I haven’t said he’s having a bad season, but he’s not hit the heights he hit last year, but then he set unbelievable standards.”
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-1-1): De Gea 6; Valencia 7 (Fletcher 73), Smalling 8, Rojo 7, Young 7; Di Maria 5 (Herrera 15, 7), Fellaini 7, Carrick 7, Mata 9; Rooney 7; Van Persie 7 (Falcao 70, 6).
HULL CITY (4-1-4-1): McGregor 5; Chester 5, Dawson 6, Davies 5, Robertson 6; Livermore 7; Elmohamady 5, Diame 6 (Quinn, 74), Ben Arfa 4 (Aluko, 35, 6), Brady 5 (Meyler, 74); Jelavic 6.
Referee: Anthony Taylor 6.