Before the clash, Van Gaal said to his players they "would win" if they did what he told them but despite some new formations and an injection of youth, United looked like the same stale team that finished seventh last season.
United enjoyed an unbeaten pre-season tour of the United States beating rivals Liverpool and European champions Real Madrid before a friendly win over Valencia at Old Trafford in midweek.
While that form encouraged the players and the fans, Van Gaal said it created a pressure that his team failed to handle on Saturday.
"Our wins in the United States and our win against Valencia... The expectations are so high -- and I felt that in the first half because I saw a lot of players very nervous, making the wrong choices. That's a pity," Van Gaal told a news conference.
"These players have to get used to those expectations, because it's Manchester United... You have to cope with that pressure, but that is also a process."
Van Gaal said the defeat could have a crushing effect on his team's confidence.
"When you have (pre-season) preparation time and you win everything and then in your first match you lose - it cannot be worse I believe," said the Dutchman. We built up a lot of confidence and it will be smashed down because of this result."
Van Gaal has made no secret of his hope to add some more new faces to his team and he confirmed that desire, but stressed it had little do with the loss to the Welsh side.
"I thought that before this match also. When we were playing in the USA, I thought the same.
"I know in what positions we need better players, but you have to buy only when the player can fulfil the way of playing that I ask," he added.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (AFP)
This is a wake-up call for everybody involved with Manchester United, some people thought Van Gaal would come in and immediately restore United to title contenders but the quality at the club is just not there at the moment and finishing in the top four should be the aim. On this evidence though, they need a couple of quality signing to even get to that point.
The pressure is really on Ed Woodward now to deliver some big deals. All his bigger transfers have been with domestic clubs (Fellaini, Mata, Shaw) or by activating buy-out clauses (Herrera). An all-action midfielder like Arturo Vidal could completely reinvigorate the team but can Woodward pull that off with Juventus playing hardball over the fee? Van Gaal has also requested much-needed defensive help. It is a crucial couple of weeks for United, and even more so off the field than on it.
HOW TWITTER REACTED
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
Daniel Taylor (The Observer): Maybe now it should be clearer why Louis van Gaal has been telling anyone who cares to listen they should not be surprised if Manchester United’s rehabilitation takes longer than they would ideally like. He had warned his new club to brace themselves for some difficult moments and here was the hard evidence that a change of manager at Old Trafford is not simply going to wash away the team’s shortcomings. It was a cloying sense of deja vu attached to the team that finished seventh last season, 22 points off the top and drastically in need of some more dynamism. They were short of ideas, huffing and puffing their way towards a demoralising defeat. There was a startling lack of creativity and if Van Gaal had listened closely he would have made out the mocking chants from the away end, as the visiting fans embarked on the repertoire of songs that formed the soundtrack to David Moyes’s time in the job. New manager, same old story, even if the home crowd would like to trust there is better to come.
James Burt (The Daily Telegraph): At the self-styled Theatre of Dreams there was a new drama wrapped in a familiar storyline – and it felt more like a sequel to last season’s tragicomedy than a revival of past blockbusters under Louis van Gaal. “A new storm is breaking,” has been the Manchester United advertising slogan for this new campaign, this new era, or so the club hope. But that choice of phraseology jarred badly and can be read more than one way after this alarming, at times disorganised and dispiriting defeat.
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