LONDON • Louis van Gaal has angrily dismissed claims by Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard that Manchester United's sudden upturn in performance is down to the manager granting the team more freedom in the way they play.
The United manager also said that he will believe that United's season has finally turned a corner if they overcome Chelsea today.
United captain Rooney claimed after the 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over Derby County that van Gaal had given the players more freedom eight days earlier, a view echoed by Lingard, the winger, after the impressive 3-0 triumph over Stoke City on Tuesday.
Van Gaal's suffocating tactics have been accused of stifling creativity this season but the Dutchman was dismissive of suggestions that he has changed his rigid approach.
"I'm not agreeing with the remark of Wayne Rooney when he said that," he said. "Because it is only that they have more confidence. And it is especially so with Wayne, who is saying that because he has scored seven goals in a row.
"Then he can say that he is playing with more freedom because he has more confidence.
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"But you want to write that it's because he gets another training session in another style, because Louis van Gaal gives more freedom. No, it is still the same.
"We train still the same, the same way. It is not because of the change of attitude of Mr Louis van Gaal or another way of training. No, I'm sorry to say that. We are always working hard and very professionally in the philosophy of Louis van Gaal. That is also for Jesse Lingard."
Nonetheless, he has urged his players to prove that the "sparkling" football they played against Stoke was not another false dawn.
United are five points adrift of Arsenal, in fourth, but van Gaal is aiming higher.
"We don't have to exaggerate, I think," he said. "By myself I have the feeling when we shall beat Chelsea - and that is not simple, it's very difficult because since Guus Hiddink has gone there, they don't lose any more - but if that happens, I think our competition shall start again."
The champions are unbeaten in nine games under Hiddink while United have not beaten the Blues in nine encounters.
United could welcome back Phil Jones (ankle), but remain without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.
Eden Hazard is expected to return for Chelsea, having made a positive impression off the bench in the mid-week 0-0 draw at Watford, and fellow winger Pedro Rodriguez is fit after a groin injury.
Loic Remy (calf) and Radamel Falcao (thigh) remain out and loan signing Alexandre Pato is not yet match-fit, while skipper John Terry could line up against United for the final time in a Chelsea shirt.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE