Van Gaal salutes Man United display in loss, Mourinho hails Chelsea match-winner Hazard
Louis van Gaal described Manchester United's display in their 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday as their best of the season and said it gave him plenty to be optimistic about in the future.sports Updated: Apr 19, 2015 14:21 IST
Louis van Gaal described Manchester United's display in their 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday as their best of the season and said it gave him plenty to be optimistic about in the future.
A 4-2 victory against champions and rivals Manchester City at a raucous Old Trafford last week was a performance akin to that of the glory days under Alex Ferguson and had fans optimistic of an imminent return to the top of the Premier League.
The resurgent Reds arrived at Stamford Bridge having won six successive league matches to leapfrog City into third spot and, although their victorious run ended at the hands of Jose Mourinho's side, there were plenty of positives for Dutch coach Van Gaal.
United were unrecognisable from the team that struggled badly after Ferguson's retirement two years ago and dominated possession against runaway leaders Chelsea. Without midfield anchorman Michael Carrick they still had 70% of the ball and 15 efforts at goal compared to seven from the Londoners.
"We were the dominant team," van Gaal told reporters after losing to a first-half breakaway goal from Belgium winger Eden Hazard. "This is an unbelievable performance. "I am not frustrated, I am very proud of my team. We played the best match of this season but in football you can lose in spite of whether you are the better team.
"We are in a process and I see my team always growing and improving every week. It was amazing how we played here. When you see the statistics it is unbelievable the result is 1-0 but that's football," said Van Gaal.
"It is a pity when you play so well. I have very disappointed players and I am very disappointed but I see that we are improving every week and when you can play at Chelsea like this, as the dominant team, I am very happy with that."
'Football is not about if or almost, it is about mathematics'
Hazard underlined his claims to be voted Player of the Year with another match-winning display as Premier League leaders Chelsea stormed 10 points clear with a 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Saturday.
Chelsea's win sent engravers off to sharpen their tools as the Londoners' name looks set to be carved on the Premier League trophy. Chelsea's performances have eased fan fears of any end-of-season jitters and they will be champions if they win their next two matches.
Mourinho's side have 76 points from 32 matches, 10 more than second-placed Arsenal, who beat Reading 2-1 in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Hazard provided an effortless finish in the 38th minute, side-footing the ball between the legs of keeper David de Gea from close range to grab his 13th league goal of the season.
The 24-year-old Belgium winger has contributed eight goals and seven assists in his last 17 league matches and was unlucky not to add a second goal against United when he flicked the ball against the bar in the second half.
As has been the case on numerous occasions this season, it was the quicksilver playmaker who provided the difference in a close match. Hazard's attacking brilliance was matched only by his work ethic and willingness to commit everything to the cause as Chelsea defended stoically in the face of intense pressure.
Often it was the Belgian who broke up United's possession to snuff out danger before dashing clear, leaving red jerseys in his wake, to create chances at the other end.
If ever a performance provided evidence that 'defence is the best form of attack' it came from Hazard and his effervescent counter-attacking.
Mourinho, who has publicly endorsed his playmaker as the league's best player, was elated by Chelsea's ability to execute their plans and paramount to that was his number 10.
"The game was exactly what we were working for the game to be," the Portuguese told reporters. "The players were magnificent and at the top of that Eden had that magic that the top ones have, especially in big matches.
"I think the team was fantastic and I am the one who knows how fantastic it was because the game was exactly what we wanted. When you manage to play the game you want to play it is fantastic."
Mourinho continues to take the title race one hurdle at a time. "We need eight points to be champions and football is not about if or almost, it is about mathematics," said Mourinho. "When mathematically it's done, it's done and we celebrate."