Man United went ahead through a 37th minute strike from Memphis Depay before squandering two goals to the home side either side of half-time.
The result means that United will have an uphill task in the return leg at Old Trafford next Thursday against a side most expected them to beat comfortably. Van Gaal, however, claimed to be unsurprised by the result and Midtjylland’s performance.
“No, because we have analysed the opponent,” van Gaal said when asked if the result came as a shock.
“We have showed the images to the players like we do usually so the players know everything about Midtjylland. Nothing surprised, no.”
It is widely known that van Gaal and his staff prepare for every game by studying each upcoming opponent meticulously.
And this sounds good on paper. But in practice, such a method causes major problems. It seems as if the ‘van Gaal philosophy’ places too much emphasis on the weaknesses on the other side, and too little on the strengths of his own side. In light of the disaster that is this season, the Dutchman would benefit from less forensic analysis and more concentration on instilling some much needed self-belief into his beleaguered squad.