Louis van Gaal has sung the praises of his players who put in an excellent performance against Liverpool today, particularly in the first half. He was less impressed with how they played in the second half but is still delighted with the win.

The first half was very good because I knew in advance that Liverpool would press us and they did, but we played them off the pitch in the first half. We scored a fantastic goal and we gave nothing away, so it was a superb first-half. So, I went in the dressing room and I gave all my compliments because I am so happy that I can give my compliments again. Then, in the second half, everything changed because of the red card. Then we are not playing like a team, we are running with the ball, unnecessary losses of the ball, we don’t press the opponent with the ball and that was different in the first half, so that was not so good in the second half.

Van Gaal spoke of his happiness at winning the game, not just for the fans, but for himself too!

I’m very happy that we’ve won and that we’ve opened up a gap from the teams below us. We can still look up and finish second. It is a significant win because we’re five points ahead of Liverpool now but, if we’d lost, we would have been a point behind them. The win is very important. Mata was also very good last week [against Tottenham]. And I wasn’t going to change my best player. When you play well, you shall always play. Mata has confirmed again today what he can do. I liked the atmosphere, our fans and, of course, the start of the game. But the win is important not only for the fans, but for me too! I’m very pleased for the fans, we’ve beaten Liverpool twice [in the league] now, so I’m very happy. I’m most excited about beating Liverpool today, it’s a very important moment.