Football: Van Gaal getting through to United players

Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal waits for the start of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, Northwest England, on Oct 5, 2014. Van Gaal believes his players ar
Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal waits for the start of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, Northwest England, on Oct 5, 2014. Van Gaal believes his players are starting to understand what he wants from them three months into his Old Trafford reign. -- PHOTO: AFP

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes his players are starting to understand what he wants from them three months into his Old Trafford reign.

But the Dutchman said Friday there was still room for improvement and for a greater balance between defence and attack in his side as they look to recover from a slow start to the season.

Van Gaal admitted on his arrival in English football that it would take time for his ideas to be implemented by a squad which has been significantly re-shaped since United finished a relatively lowly seventh in the Premier League last season.

However, three wins in their last four games and a place in the top four of the Premier League ahead of the weekend games suggests United are making progress, although van Gaal is not fully satisfied yet.

"I think they do understand the philosophy but they have to perform that philosophy," said van Gaal, who arrived at Old Trafford in pre-season after guiding the Netherlands to third place at this year's World Cup in Brazil.

"We have to see if it works at a higher level," he said. We need more balance in the team. I said that after the match against Everton.

"I am looking for balance in the team, not only spectacular attacking football. When you lose the ball, you must have a shape as a team and then you can defend more easily. You can kill the game better.

"That is also a part of the philosophy but that is also because I am choosing more creative, attacking football players. We are looking for that balance and, okay, we shall see if the time that I have had is long enough."

United have invested heavily in attacking talent with British record signing Angel di Maria and on-loan Monaco forward Radamel Falcao - who both scored in United's 2-1 win over Everton in their last game before the international break - two of their highest profile signings.

But van Gaal remains concerned that United have looked vulnerable in the closing stages of games with an injury-hit defence having to hang on to claim victories over Everton and West Ham, as well as leaking three late goals to lose against Leicester City.

"We could have done better because I don't think that we are in balance now," van Gaal said.

"I'm sorry to say that but that is the truth when you see Everton in the last 15 minutes or Leicester in the last 15 minutes or West Ham in the last 30 minutes. When you see the first 60 minutes, it's fantastic."

When asked by reporters how he feels he is measuring up in the United job, van Gaal joked that he is doing great - as always.

But he insisted United's planned revival was a team effort as they looked towards Monday's match away to West Bromwich Albion.

"I have confidence in myself and my players but much more important is that the players have confidence in the manager. It's tough. I'm not doing that alone, I'm doing it with the staff and the players."

After missing up to ten players at times due to injury in the opening weeks of the season, United are starting to see increased availability.

Only Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans, Patrick McNair and Jesse Lingard are definitely out of the trip to the Hawthorns - as well as suspended captain Wayne Rooney.

Van Gaal revealed that midfielder Ander Herrera could even play in a body brace to protect a cracked rib he sustained in United's win over West Ham at the end of last month.