MANCHESTER - MANCHESTER United manager Louis van Gaal hopes that his team's 3-1 home victory over arch-rivals Liverpool in the Premier League will signal the end of their early-season difficulties.
United endured a testing start to the campaign, struggling for goals and facing criticism over their transfer dealings. They went into the international break on the back of a 2-1 defeat by Swansea City.
But Saturday's win over Liverpool blew off the cobwebs, with David de Gea back in goal following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid and substitute Anthony Martial netting a clinically taken debut goal following his £36 million (S$78 million) transfer from Monaco.
"I think in a difficult period like what we had in the transfer period, with a lot of problems with players who are going and coming, it is always worse with Manchester United than the other clubs," said van Gaal, whose side climbed to second place in the table, five points below Manchester City.
"We have noticed that and I think we have managed that very well. We have qualified ourselves (in the Champions League), we have 10 points from five matches (in the Premier League).
"That is a good record. There is only one club better and our aim is to be the best, but now we are five points behind Manchester City. We still look to that position, but I am happy."
But van Gaal was critical of his men for almost allowing Liverpool back into the match, declaring himself more satisfied with their controlled first-half showing and lamenting their failure to "kill the game".
Martial's strike, in front of the Stretford End, was a moment to savour for the home fans, but the manager said that the 19-year-old French striker would have to brace himself for bumps in the road ahead.
"You cannot expect from players of this age to have consistency," said the Dutchman. "You cannot ask that. You can ask that from (Bastian) Schweinsteiger and (Michael) Carrick, but not players who are 19, 20 and 21."
Martial may not have long to wait for his full debut, however, with van Gaal revealing that skipper Wayne Rooney is unlikely to play in United's Champions League opener at PSV Eindhoven tomorrow due to a hamstring injury.
Van Gaal's mood was in stark contrast to his opposite number Brendan Rodgers, who addressed journalists in a dejected whisper in his post-match media conference.
Liverpool have now conceded six goals in two games, following their 3-0 home defeat by West Ham United, and trail leaders City by eight points.
"It's five games in," said Rodgers, whose side launch their Europa League campaign at Bordeaux on Thursday.
"We haven't created anywhere near as much as we would like. We have to... see how we can find ways to be much more creative."
On the result, he added: "This is the biggest game in this country, maybe in the world in terms of derby games. It's an incredible game...
"It is difficult for the supporters. We just have to go away, work harder and do better."