The Dutchman was greeted by a hail of flashbulbs as he made his public debut as United manager with a press conference at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal appeared determined not to state expectations which might appear to grand for his first season but, when asked whether simply making the Champions League would be adequate, he made it clear that he is aiming for top spot.
"First I have to see how quickly the players can pick up my philosophy," said Van Gaal, who is expected to be without Michael Carrick for 12 weeks after the midfielder underwent ankle surgery. "I haven't worked with most of them and it is very important that there is a click between the players and the manager. For me, the challenge is always first [in the league] and not fourth."
Van Gaal arrived in Manchester on Wednesday, just four days after guiding the Dutch national team to a third-place finish at the World Cup. A former club manager at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax, he will have Ryan Giggs alongside him as assistant next season.
However, Van Gaal's principal concern following his first 24 hours in charge appears to be satisfying the commercial demands that will be placed upon him. He will fly out today as United embark on a pre-season tour comprising matches against Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma, Internazionale and Real Madrid.
"In two days I know already how important Manchester United is," said Van Gaal. "I have to prepare a team and I have to adapt to this big club. I will do my utmost. It will not be easy, but when you see my career, you can see what I have won. The future will show if I can do that again.
"I have met a lot of people and when you see that kind of people who love the club; it's a big family. They expect a lot of me, they are very excited to meet me, but can I fulfil that expectation? I think I can but because of the greatness of this club, it's also much more difficult than at another club.
"This club is also guided in the commercial way and we have to fulfil that also. It is not always possible to fulfil the commercial expectations and the football expectations. That is my big challenge, I think."
Many pundits believe that United's squad needs a major overhaul after the disappointment of last season's seventh-place finish, which cost David Moyes his job after less than a year in office. The Old Trafford squad appears to be short of short of experience in defence especially, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both having departed. Left-back Luke Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera are the only new signings so far.
A number of players are likely to be playing for their futures on the US tour too, although Van Gaal has insisted that he would give his squad the chance to prove themselves. "My method is always the same," he said. "I want to look at the players. In the first three or four weeks I want to see what they can do.
"Maybe I shall buy other players. The players that we have bought now, Shaw and Herrera were already on the list, so I gave my approval because I like them. First I want to see the players performing my philosophy."
Another issue for Van Gaal to consider is who to appoint as the new club captain. Robin van Persie has been tipped to be given the role after wearing the armband for the Dutch national team under Van Gall, while the coach also confirmed that he wants to find roles for Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville within his backroom staff.
Almost exactly a year ago, Moyes was sat in the same room giving his vision of a future with United, but yesterday his duties extended to watching the Open at Hoylake. It was impossible not to note the contrast between the two men.
That differences only increased as Van Gaal was asked to sum up his personality. "Sir Alex [Ferguson] also has a strong philosophy like I do and it was always confirmed because he won a lot of titles with Manchester United. I hope I can do that."