Louis van Gaal: I had to move fast to sign Memphis Depay
Louis van Gaal admits his players may have been distracted by the signing of Memphis Depay - but he insists he had no option but to bring the youngster's transfer to Manchester United forward.
United announced on Thursday that they had agreed to sign Depay from PSV Eindhoven in a £25million deal.
In doing so, Van Gaal was making a break in protocol. The United boss believes signing players when the transfer window shuts can affect the focus of those who are already in his squad.
But Van Gaal says he was forced to accelerate his pursuit of the 21-year-old forward as Paris St Germain were ready to swoop for the player.
"I have been forced to sign him," Van Gaal said.
"I didn't want to sign him before the end of the season. We have to focus on our games.
"When you sign a player you disturb the focus of your present group of players. The coming matches are very important for Manchester United and for all of the players. But because of the market, I must handle it (now) - because otherwise he would have signed for PSG."
Depay was also linked with Liverpool after scoring 21 goals in 28 league games for the newly-crowned Dutch champions.
But Van Gaal swung the deal in United's favour due to his close relationship with PSV and the player, to whom he gave his first Holland cap in October 2013.
When asked why he felt Depay was in danger of signing for PSG, Van Gaal said: "Because at that time he was not reached by me.
"I don't want to speak with players before the season has ended.
"I have also a feeling to my players. But now, because of the close relationship I have with PSV, I could handle it."
Depay enjoyed a successful World Cup with Holland before going on to become one of the most prolific young strikers in Europe this season.
Van Gaal thinks Depay is a rare talent who will hopefully help his team score more goals next term.
"He's a goalscoring winger and there aren't so many of them in the world," said Van Gaal, whose team have failed to score in their last three matches.
Van Gaal is known to have a sizeable transfer kitty available to him this summer.
Nathaniel Clyne and Mats Hummels are also on Van Gaal's radar, but the next target for the Dutchman appears to be a central midfielder.
Van Gaal is short of options there after experienced and influential campaigner Michael Carrick was ruled out for the rest of the season with a calf problem.
"He shall not play any more this season," said Van Gaal, who is known to admire Roma's Kevin Strootman and Ilkay Gundogan of Borussia Dortmund.
"We have only one right-sided holding midfielder. Our selection is not balanced, and I want to restore that in the next transfer period.
"The life is not ending at 34, but for a professional football player, it's close by. That's why I have to handle again in that position."
Carrick is not the only absentee for Saturday's game at Crystal Palace.
A virus has swept through the squad. Van Gaal has picked it up and several of the players have too, although he refused to go into details.
After losing three successive matches, Van Gaal needs a win at Selhurst Park to allay fears that Liverpool will bridge the four-point gap that separated them from their old rivals.
A few weeks ago, United were being tipped as outside challengers for the title, but they are now 18 points shy of the summit.
The 63-year-old, who was Mourinho's boss at Barcelona, opened his press conference on Friday with a tribute to the Blues and their manager.
"I want to wish my colleague Jose Mourinho and Chelsea congratulations on a well-deserved championship," he said.
"When you see the statistics, you cannot doubt that they are the real champion."