Monday, 15 December 2014

UNITED STUFF 'EM GOOD

So it goes on. Six wins in a row is not neccessarily alien to Manchester United but it's been a while since. I did blog earlier in the month that we were in for a run of tricky fixtures largely based on the trip to St Marys' and the home tie against Liverpool. That we've come from those fixtures with maximum points will take a while to sink in.

The irony is that whatever difficulty we faced enroute to those points was self-induced. It's there for everyone to see that United don't seem to understand how to effectively play a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-1-2 but Louis van Gaal has remained steadfast in that approach. At Southampton, moving the ball between defence and attack was akin to trying to find a solution to a complicated maths problem. If you factor in the performance at Arsenal in which we also used a 3-5-2, and contrast that with the times LVG has gone with a back four, the difference in performances couldn't be any more stark.

Whilst we'd come to imagine that LVG favours that system only away from home, Sunday proved to be the exception. United were going 3-5-2 at home against Liverpool. More amusingly, Liverpool were going to use the same system, but worse: they didn't have a recongised striker on the pitch. It didn't require any level of tactical analysis to immediately see where the game would be won. Both sides were going to get chances but United were going to be more clinical than Liverpool.

That David De Gea (who is already a favourite for Player of the Year) was given the Man of the Match award even after a 3-0 win is testament that United (not least because of the formation) were poor again. That particular frustration ends with the performance because beyond that it was joy watching United stuff Liverpool. A win against that lot, no matter how it comes is epic. That we've contributed to making their season even worse is all that a fan could ask of the players yesterday.

More importantly though, United are back to within 8 points of he summit. Now, although its 'greedy' to ask for a title this season, I can't help but recall that there are at least three seasons in which we've been 8 points off the top in mid December and yet went on to win the title. So its do-able, but because football has a way of kicking you in the teeth, you wonder whether we can continue to navigate our way through games. The chances that our defence affords teams means that at some point, De Gea will be wrong footed, or not be lucky enough to deflect goal bound efforts onto the post. Louis van Gaal post match said sometimes you have to 'force the luck'. If all this is down to forced luck then long may they work at forcing it because at the moment it's getting us past landmines. You know, like when Jonny Evans felt determined to hand Liverpool a way back into the match by passing it straight to Sterling with just De Gea left to beat; or when Marouanne Fellaini made a similar misplaced pass that led to Southampton's equaliser on Monday.

Whilst De Gea has been lauded most for the results lately, Michael Carrick deserves at least an honourable mention. In the frenzied chaos that is our defence, Michael has still managed to sustain a degree of sanity and composure at the back, picking out his teammates more accurately than anyone and serving as an unspecting 'quarterback'. His position on the pitch now means he will hardly be marked and yet he has the perfect eye for a pass to the forwards that has often caught teams offguard. One wonders where we would be if we hadn't lost him for the start of the season. De Ge has been there from the start but this run of wins dates to Michael's return to the starting XI. It's amazing how David Moyes failed to get these performances from him. Perhaps the biggest indictment on Moyes' time was that all players that started yesterday were available to him last season.

Next up is the start of the traditional fixture pile-up over the festive season. 18 points from the last 18 available has put us on quite a foundation to do something special. Whether we can continue to force the luck into 2015 is uncertain. There are many ways and many reasons to pour cold water over United's season so far. Indeed, there are still many caveats to the argument that United are back to the good old times but for as long as this run of results lasts, we'll continue to be drunk in love with United...and there's no room for rationalisation in drunkenness.

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