LONDON (AP) — The World Cup memories are fading fast for Louis van Gaal as the size of the Manchester United rebuilding task hits home.
A week after losing the season opener, United was held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Sunday, leaving the former Netherlands coach still searching for his first win in the Premier League. Juan Mata gave United the lead in northeast England but former Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell headed Sunderland level on the half-hour.
"Football is played for creating chances and making goals," said Van Gaal, who led the Dutch to third place in Brazil. "We haven't created so many chances today. We probably had more ball possession and were more dominant than the last match but you have to win your game at that moment and we couldn't, so that's a pity."
Before the approach from United to replace David Moyes, Van Gaal was close to taking charge at Tottenham. Instead, Mauricio Pochettino's reign at White Hart Lane has begun with successive league wins as his team overwhelmed Queens Park Rangers with a stylish 4-0 rout on Sunday.
Whether Tottenham is a top-four contender might only become clearer when the north London club hosts Liverpool next Sunday. Before then Liverpool plays champion Manchester City on Monday in a meeting of last season's top-two.
United, which collected a 20th English title in 2013 before Alex Ferguson retired, seems some way away from rejoining the elite, based on the Swansea loss and Sunderland draw.
By pursuing Argentina forward Angel Di Maria, who would likely cost more than $100 million to leave Real Madrid, the United owners are showing there is money to spend, having already splashed out around $125 million in recent months.
And the first goal came Sunday from the club's most expensive player, Mata, who joined in January for 37.1 million pounds (then $61 million). The Spain midfielder met Antonio Valencia's low cross from close range in the 17th minute after evading Sebastian Larsson.
But United's frailties at the back were exposed in the 30th minute when Larsson sent a corner to the near post for Rodwell to head home. In a further blow for United, defender Chris Smalling left Sunderland with a suspected groin injury that will be assessed on Monday.