Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has dismissed criticism from former players Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes after his team were soundly beaten 2-0 by arch-rivals Liverpool in the Europa League.

The two-goal margin flattered United who were grateful to goalkeeper David De Gea for keeping the scoreline respectable.

Ferdinand and Scholes described the performance as “disjointed” and a “shambles” but Van Gaal defended his players.

“It was shambolic … so bad,” Scholes told BT Sport. “Tonight was a disaster. Liverpool had a way of playing. United? I didn’t have a clue what they were trying to do.

“United have spent £250m [under Van Gaal] … they are sixth in the Premier League and have ended up in the Europa League,” added Scholes.

“They should be competing with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich [in the Champions League]. United didn’t need a new philosophy, they had one for 20-odd years that worked.”

Ferdinand was equally scathing of the performance and said that despite the huge outlay on new players, Van Gaal had actually weakened the side since he arrived in 2014.

“The fairytale has gone,” he said. “The players he has let go, Ángel Di María, Nani, Patrice Evra, Javier Hernández, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck, Rafael, Darren Fletcher, are they worse than the players out there? They are better than that team out there today, that’s the problem.”

The defiant Dutch coach, though, was in no mood to listen to former United players.

“Is it important what Rio Ferdinand is saying, is that important to you?” he responded when asked about what the two former United players had said. “You don’t give your opinion and then you give Rio Ferdinand’s opinion – that is very strong of you.

“Of course Liverpool were the better team in the first half but in second half we did a better match than before that.

“We did not cope with the high pressure of Liverpool.

“We had expected that and for me it was a surprise we did not cope with it because they did it at their home match this year.

“That raised the atmosphere in the stadium and they created big chances but we had a very good goalkeeper and because of that we were in the match.

“I don’t think we were very creative in the third and fourth phase but it is also the defence of Liverpool and you can give credit for that to Liverpool.

“We have to improve a lot to create more goals.”