Louis van Gaal blamed altitude and the heat for Manchester United’s disjointed display in their 3-2 win over Roma at Denver’s Sports Authority Field.
The venue, formerly known as Mile High Stadium, is 5,280ft above sea level and this, plus the 2pm kick-off time, which meant the sides played in a 30-plus degree heat, affected United’s quality, Van Gaal claimed.
“I think we don’t play a good match,” he said. “I don’t know, whether because of the height of stadium, the air, all of my passers failed today.
“It wasn’t normal. It was the height and the air, the ball was bobbling all the time, but we scored remarkable, fantastic goals and were able to keep the ball in possession in the second-half.”
Asked why the match was at 2pm, Van Gaal said: “I don’t know. I came here [to the club] and everything is arranged.”
While the reason was due to TV scheduling, Van Gaal was unhappy how United allowed Roma back into the game after taking a 3-0 lead. A 70-yard Miralem Pjanic lob over Ben Amos on 75 minutes prompted a flurry by the Italians, with Francesco Totti slotting a late penalty before United hung on.
This followed an impressive 30-yard curled finish by Wayne Rooney, with the striker creating Juan Mata’s goal six minutes before the break with a 50-yard pass the Spaniard finished by chipping the Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski. United’s scoring was completed on the stoke of half-time when Rooney converted from the spot to claim a fourth goal in two halves on the tour.
“When you are 3-0 ahead, you just have to keep the ball as opponent has to run and run,” Van Gaal said. “It is very difficult, with this hot weather, to do that. We forgot to do that and we allowed Rome back into the game. I am pleased we have won, but it was not good.
“We are not used to this hot weather and I have said also that, when the World Cup was here in 1994 and games were played at noon, it was not very nice. America has a top sport climate, but you have to play football at the right time. You had 55,000 people watching us but we could have performed much better. It was the height and the heat, though.
“When you see Mata or [Ander] Herrera playing, and [Shinji] Kagawa, who are the best passers – but still everything went wrong, it is the air, I believe.”
Wilfried Zaha is now the only United player not to feature on tour but Van Gaal denied there is any issue with him. “Maybe the next time I can use Zaha. He is working good and doing all that I demand,” he said.
He did praise the “brain” of Rooney and Mata. “I think you are right but we don’t discuss one player, we discuss the team,” he said. “The team is performing, but his pass to Mata was unbelievable. But he did it with his brain and Mata was running with his brain.”
Van Gaal did believe Amos was culpable for Pjanic’s goal. “I am nearly 63 years old and I run when the ball is flying four seconds, fifty metres. What do you think?”