LONDON • Louis van Gaal has questioned the will to win of his Manchester United players after he watched in shock as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat by Arsenal.
It was the first time that United conceded three goals in the first 19 minutes of a Premier League game.
And van Gaal complained about their failure to execute his game-plan, together with their lack of aggression. He said he had made his feelings known to them at half-time and after the game.
"I didn't expect that," said the manager. "I was surprised - not performing to our gameplan, not the will to win.
"I have not seen that, when you are top of the league (as United were at the beginning of the weekend). So I was surprised, amazed - maybe that is a better word.
"When you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football, then you know you will lose.
"We prepared ourselves to play more compact and not losing our aggression so it was amazing for me.
"I am very disappointed."
The Dutchman added that he had no explanation for what had happened at the outset when Arsenal tore through his team, with Alexis Sanchez scoring either side of Mesut Oezil's goal.
"I don't know why it happened," he said. "I put the question at half-time and after the match.
"It is difficult for the players to answer at the moment because they are all in an emotional moment.
"We have lost, and lost in a way that you cannot lose when you are top of the league.
"The problems did not start at the back, they started in midfield.
"Their midfield players, especially (Santi) Cazorla and Oezil, had too much time and space... You have to be more compact.
"You need aggression at the moment you have a duel and Arsenal were much more aggressive."
For counterpart Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's joint-biggest league win over United - which ended a run of eight league games without victory over their rivals - went some way in answering their critics.
He was roundly criticised in the British press after his side's 2-3 loss to Olympiakos last week left them struggling to avoid a group-stage exit in the Champions League.
But he hit out at the media for focusing on his decision to select blundering second-choice goalkeeper David Ospina. And his players responded to send Arsenal up to second place in the table.
"That's what you want in games of that stature," said the Gunners manager. "We started very strong, we decided to press very high, to play at a great pace, and we did that very well.
"In the second half, we decided to be disciplined, control the result, and we did that very well as well, so we had two aspects in our game that are pleasing and were convincing today. It gives a strong answer to all the questions that were raised during the week."
Arsenal now trail leaders Manchester City by two points, with United below them on goal difference.
Wenger concurred when it was put to him that his side had sent out a message about their title credentials.
"To win in a big game is always a statement," said the Frenchman.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE