Cheikhou Kouyate opened the scoring on 49 minutes and the Red Devils looked to be heading for defeat until Daley Blind latched onto a failed clearance to fire home an equaliser.
Van Gaal was relieved to salvage a positive result following the game but criticised United’s performance which was far below the required level.
Speaking about the match, van Gaal said: “I think we played very badly in the first half and we showed a lot of spirit in the second half, especially after the goal. We gave that goal away I think. Then we played football but you have to do it from the first minute. I have to say what a spirit my team showed after falling 1-0 behind. I have thanked my players for that.”
Asked what was wrong with United’s play during the first half of the game, van Gaal continued: “Especially when we had the ball, we didn’t play it along the floor but also when we lost the ball, then you have to win the first and the second balls much better than we did in the first half.
“Because they were playing long balls, we knew that in advance, but all of the second balls were for West Ham United and that is why we were under a lot of pressure. That is also why the players lost their confidence to play the ball along the floor when we were in possession.”
West Ham had clearly worked on their set pieces prior to the clash and they caused United plenty of problems.
It makes van Gaal’s decision not to start Marouane Fellaini an odd one as his height and physicality would have helped defensively and in midfield.
The Belgian came off the bench after United had gone behind and they subsequently looked much better going forward.
His performance will provide food for thought for van Gaal as he looks for ways to grind out the results United need if they are to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season.