LONDON • Manchester United found a home-grown solution to their scoring problems in the shape of Jesse Lingard as the 22-year-old celebrated his first Premier League start by breaking an Old Trafford stalemate on Saturday.
With Wayne Rooney failing to register a shot on target against a resolute West Bromwich Albion, frustration was mounting before winger Lingard controlled a clearance and curled in a beauty to put the hosts ahead after 52 minutes.
It was the England Under-21 international's first United goal, which came after some impressive displays as a substitute in the Premier League and starts home and away against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
Juan Mata's late penalty gave the scoreline a comfortable look, but it was another largely frustrating day for the United fans who watched their team dominate possession without carving out sufficient chances.
"We played three games in a row without scoring a goal, though we had more than enough chances. That's why you look for solutions and one of those was to bring Jesse into the team," said van Gaal, who turned down loan requests for Lingard in the close season.
BOLSTERING THE ATTACK
We played three games in a row without scoring a goal... That's why you look for solutions and one of those was to bring Jesse into the team.
LOUIS VAN GAAL on his decision to put young Jesse Lingard in the starting line-up
"I'm very happy for him, he deserves it because I think he played very well. I'm a happy manager today."
United enjoyed 76 per cent of possession in the first half but could find no way past a West Brom side content to sit back and wait for counter-attacks.
That the Red Devils eventually won, however, left van Gaal suggesting that opposition managers may change how they set their teams up ahead of trips to Old Trafford.
"We have to attack better against these defensive organisations but it is the most difficult way you can play as a team," said the Dutchman, whose team are fourth on 24 points.
"But it is good we have won because the next manager shall not choose so easily this strategy.
FLOW-ON EFFECT OF VICTORY
It is good we have won because the next manager shall not choose so easily this strategy.
VAN GAAL on United's opponents using defensive strategies against them
"We have also won against CSKA Moscow and they have the same strategy.
"It is good we send a signal that you can do that but you lose.
"We have won a very difficult game. Last year we lost against this opponent and probably because of that Tony Pulis chooses this strategy again.
"Now we have won and so we are improving."
And in another message to United's demanding fans, he added: "When you are yelling 'attack, attack, attack' and you attack for 85 minutes, you have to think as a fan, 'Is it all right to yell?' But they want to know they have to score.
OPPORTUNITY WENT A-BEGGING
If you need a chance - a gilt-edged chance - to drop to anyone it would be Saido but he missed the chance that would have got us something out of the game.
TONY PULIS, West Brom manager, on his striker Saido Berahino's miss
"We have to score goals, that my mother knows and my grandmother."
West Brom's defeat was only their second away from home this season as manager Tony Pulis was left to rue a missed chance for Saido Berahino.
The striker headed wide from close range and the opportunity to equalise in the 74th minute slipped away.
"If you need a chance - a gilt-edged chance - to drop to anyone it would be Saido but he missed the chance that would have got us something out of the game," said Pulis.
"I am really disappointed for the players. They worked really hard and kept their discipline, shape and togetherness really well."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE