Despite defeat to Chelsea, Louis van Gaal hails Manchester United’s “best match of season”

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LONDON — Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side lost 1-0 on Saturday at Chelsea but the Dutch manager declared himself a happy man after the game at Stamford Bridge.

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Hailing the creativity of his side at the home of the runaway Premier League leaders, van Gaal revealed his feelings about United’s display as their six-game winning spree came to a halt in west London.

“I am not frustrated, I am very proud of my team,” van Gaal said. “We played the best match of the season but in football you can lose. In spite of [the fact] that you are the better team.”

United had 70 percent of possession, had 15 shots at goal compared to Chelsea’s seven and created three key chances in the second half which they failed to convert. Van Gaal questioned the decision to not award his side a free kick in the buildup to the only goal of the game, where John Terry looked to have fouled Radamel Falcao, but was pleased that his side continues to progress.

“We are in a process and I see my team always growing and improving every week,” van Gaal said. “It is amazing how we have played here. When you see the statistics it is unbelievable that the result is 1-0. But that is football.”

The Red Devils were without four key players heading into this match as Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones were out, but United’s inexperienced backline, which included Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw, were hardly tested as the away side did all of the pressing but couldn’t find a crucial breakthrough.

“In spite of the compact defensive organization of Chelsea, we have created more chances in the second half. That is unbelievable performance, I think. But you need to score. Normally we are more effective and normally we are not so creative and because of that I think we played a fantastic match but we lost,” van Gaal added. “Now I have very disappointed players and I am very disappointed but I see that we are improving every week and when you can play at Chelsea, like this, as the dominant team. Then I am very happy with that but I am disappointed [with the defeat]. That is the ambivalence in my feelings.”

With five games to go United remains in third place, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and four points ahead of fourth-placed Manchester City. Van Gaal’s side deserved more than they got at Chelsea on Saturday but as he said: “that’s football.”