United are out of the Champions League and in the middle of their worst run for 26 seasons, but manager Van Gaal thinks it is wrong to judge the year based on their December displays.
After a dour 0-0 draw against PSV and a stalemate against Leicester, United began the month with a goalless encounter against West Ham.
Defeats against Bournemouth, Norwich, Stoke, and Wolfsburg followed — as well as another goalless draw against Chelsea — left United nine points behind leaders Arsenal in sixth position.
United may be ending the year on a low point, but after guiding the club to fourth last season and adding more “balance” to the squad in the summer, Van Gaal believes the team has moved forward over the last 12 months.
“When you don’t assess December it was a very good year, 2015,” said the United manager, who has spent over £250m (€340m) since taking charge 18 months ago.
“But you cannot do that because a year has 12 months.
“I think we have fulfilled the wish and our aim in the first season and after that we have managed to give balance to the team and that resulted in November we were first.
“Then we are out of the Champions League and that gives us a big blow.”
Those comments may not go down well with the United fans who voiced their concerns about Van Gaal and his style of play long before December.
Some have booed their team off and implored them to attack during matches after becoming annoyed at the ponderous, possession-based style often on display at Old Trafford.
Despite United’s poor form, Van Gaal still has his eyes on the title. “We need to win because at the end of the season I want to be top, not middle,” he said.
Although United failed to beat Chelsea on Monday, the team’s performance in the goalless stalemate was encouraging enough to prevent a full fan revolt and save the manager.
Van Gaal admits the pressure is still on him, however, as he cannot afford for the likes of Arsenal, Leicester, Manchester City, and Tottenham to break away.
Van Gaal said: “We have to get points, otherwise the gap is too big and that is why we have to do what we have to do.
“We have to work, prepare the game, perform, and then evaluate the game again. That is of course much more difficult when you don’t win than when you win.”
The pressure on Van Gaal will increase if United fail to beat Swansea at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“You have to show it for 90 minutes against the resistance of the opponent and also under the pressure of the environment and the pressure you put yourself under,” said Van Gaal, who has lost all three games against Swansea since becoming United manager.
“And you have to cope with that.
“I was three times lost against Swansea, and then you have to evaluate why you lost. It is always like that, then you continue with the same vicious circle of working.
“There is no magic, it is looking at what has happened and what can improve, as a team but also as an individual player.”
Jesse Lingard remains a doubt for United ahead of the game tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Swansea caretaker boss Alan Curtis is now the bookmakers’ favourite to become the new Swans manager, at least until the end of the season, after overseeing an improvement in form since Garry Monk’s departure on December 9.
Swansea have gone three games unbeaten, beating West Brom and drawing against West Ham and Crystal Palace, since losing Curtis’ first game at Manchester City to an injury-time goal.
Curtis says that he has spoken to chairman Huw Jenkins about January targets with the transfer window set to open.
“I’ve inquired about it and there are funds available,” Curtis said.
“The targets are the same as we were talking about a couple of months ago. You don’t go into the January window in the last week or so with a new list of players.
“This has been done months ago, as soon as the last window shut you’re almost looking to January for possible signings.
“You just work off the list on those names who have been there for a while, and hopefully you can find the right one to bring in.”
Curtis poured cold water on speculation linking Swansea to Patrick Bamford, who featured against them as a second-half substitute for Crystal Palace on Monday. Bamford has since returned to parent club Chelsea but could be loaned out again in January.
Curtis admitted greater firepower was a priority with Swansea’s tally of 16 goals from 19 games the second-lowest total in the Premier League after bottom-placed Aston Villa.
“When you look at our ‘goals for’ column it is a problem, we need to score more,” Curtis said.
“It’s not necessarily the strikers to blame for that as we need to produce better quality service into the frontmen.
“We have stopped it at one end with three clean sheets on the trot, but obviously we have to score goals and improve that department.”