Up to a point they have a point, even if the view through red-tinted spectacles is slightly misted by memories of only the good times under Alex Ferguson and, further back, Matt Busby.
It’s true that van Gaal has a more pragmatic style but again, at the moment, it also appears he has less flair to play with in a squad that has been re-built from the back forwards.
However, where the Dutchman insists he is in keeping with United’s ethos and his famed predecessors is in giving home-grown potential its chance.
The volume of talent of the Busby Babes and the Class of ‘92 might not be coming through but van Gaal has shown faith in a number of United’s youngsters since starting the job almost 18 months ago.
Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and James Wilson have had a chance and Jesse Lingard is now the one making an impact, his superbly taken first goal for the club setting up a win which was threatening to become hard work.
“As a manager I am well aware that it is much better to produce players from your own youth education, from your own culture, than to buy players from another culture or country or something like that,” insisted van Gaal, who also gave a debut as a substitute to teenage left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
“And I have provided a lot of examples in my managerial career of that. It is not a surprise for my board because they know.
And Jesse deserved it.
“He played in my first game and then he was injured and he had to recover for six months and then recover his rhythm.
“And while I said to some of the other young boys they could go on loan at the start of the season, I said to him’ you have to stay!’”
Warrington-born Lingard has been at United since he was seven years old.
Ferguson predicted he would be a slow burner and it wasn’t until van Gaal took over that he started a Premier League game.
A knee injury delayed his momentum and he finished last season on loan at Championship club Derby County before van Gaal’s trust was repaid with big performances in United’s last two games.
The 22-year-old was one of United’s best players in the Champions League win over CSKA which took them to the top of their group and against West Brom he was again a driving force out wide on the left – even if van Gaal admits he is still looking for pace and creativity to fill his flanks.
United again found it difficult to break down a packed defence until Chris Brunt’s misplaced defensive header dropped at the feet of Lingard, who took a touch and curled a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner from 22 yards with 52 minutes gone.
“I have been kind of rash with my finishing but to be composed in that situation is good,” said Lingard. “I like the bend in the far corner shots. I have been doing it since I was in the reserves.
“It was pure happiness. My mum was here, my brother, dad and girlfriend, so they are really proud of me. I think my girlfriend has taped it so I will watch it again later.”
Saido Berahino won’t want to relive the header he missed from a simple chance to make it 1-1 and deny United a fourth successive Premier League clean sheet. But that was a rare threat from West Brom, who conceded again in stoppage time when Gareth McCauley tripped Anthony Martial to earn a red card and Juan Mata scored from the penalty spot to confirm United’s return to something like normal progress.
De Gea 6; Young 6 (Jones 62), Smalling 7, Blind 7, Rojo 6 (Borthwick-Jackson 76); Carrick 7, Schweinsteiger 6; Mata 7, Rooney 6 (Herrera 82), Lingard 8; Martial 7.
Myhill 6; Dawson 6, McAuley 6, Evans 7, Brunt 5 (McManaman 85); Yacob 5; Sessegnon 7, Fletcher 6, Morrison 5 (Lambert 72), McClean 6; Rondon 5 (Berahino 72).
M Dean 7