Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has credited goalkeeper David de Gea and defender Chris Smalling for saving them during the Red Devils' 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night (3 November). Seydou Doumbia was on the verge of giving the Russian club the lead, but an excellent stop from the Spanish stopper and a goal line clearance from the England defender, kept the match level, albeit for just a minute, as following the heroics at the back a click move saw Wayne Rooney score the first goal of the game, which eventually turned out to be the winner.
The Dutch manager had addressed his team's lack of goals in recent weeks, and was hoping to end the barren run against CSKA. Despite breaking the goal drought, the manager was aware that the result could have been different had the Russian club taken the lead. De Gea and Smalling have been United's top stars this season, with both putting in key performances in most games thus far this season. The 20-time English champions have the best defensive record in the Premier League along with Arsenal after 11 games this campaign.
"It was the only attack of CSKA Moscow and that was when a player of Manchester United stepped in the wrong way. David De Gea has saved us and then Smalling has saved us, but that is also football - that you are running everything out of your body to prevent goals and it is fantastic to see that Smalling is doing that. Ashley Young was also doing that [behind Smalling] – it was a great sliding tackle," Van Gaal told United's official site.
The manager also brushed off the disapproval of fans over the substitution of Anthony Martial, who was replaced by Marouane Fellaini after 66 minutes. The French international has been one of United's most impressive forward players, and despite being played out of position on the left wing, he has managed to impact games, and has already scored five goals and provided two assists in 15 games this season. Van Gaal, however, stood by his decision to replace the former AS Monaco forward with the Belgian midfielder, who has increasingly been used as a forward this campaign.
"Of course I heard that. That is the opinion of the fans, afterwards they shall not be disappointed with the decision of the manager," the Dutchman added.