Manchester United recorded an important 1-2 away victory over Watford on Saturday in the premier league to move up to second in the standings. In a rare occurrence of events lately, United rallied after conceding a penalty with just five minutes left to haul themselves into the lead in stoppage time---the first time it has happened in four years!
When taken in context of the rest of the fixtures at the weekend, United's result was all the more important. Whereas United had created enough chances to win the game comfortably, the circumstances by the end of the game were more in tune with two points saved than anything else.
Injuries appear to be stretching Louis van Gaal's resources and Ander Herrera and Phil Jones joined what is an ever growing list. Not that Louis van Gaal is going about it in predictible fashion. Memphis Depay, restored upfront where he spent pre-season, appeared much sharper with the freedom that came with playing up top. His failure to adapt to the restrictions of van Gaal's dossier out wide means that he could retain the false 9 role from hereon. Certainly, the manager indicated as much post match.
The underlying fear surrounding the Watford game however is that the adopted 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 formation after the injury to Ander Herrera will not be common in the future. Whilst United remained strong going forward in the system, Watford were gifted a number of chances late on in the system. David De Gea produced yet another fantabulous performance to keep Watford at bay--in open play at least.
The performance on Saturday did not deviate from the narrative of boring football under Louis van Gaal. The pragmatic Dutchman undoubtedly has his faults and few fans, but he will have looked at the league table in his office on Monday morning and seen that after the first third of the season, United are ahead of all their traditional title rivals. If the old adage is true that the the league table does not lie then we can fairly conclude that United are so far the second most consistent team in the league at picking up points, It remains true that nothing is won in November let alone this side of Christmas but the trajectory at the moment points to progress in the right direction, at least in terms of results.
Sky will not have known it when they picked fixtures for next weekend but they've suddenly got the a top of the table clash for game 14 on Saturday when United return to the scene of their darkest day under Louis van Gaal. Win that, and United will claim league leadership again this season.
Before that though is a crucial Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford. PSV can rightfully wallow in the confidence of being one of only three sides that have beaten United this season in all competitions. United are also yet to feel an element of closure since the horrible injury suffered by Luke Shaw in Holland. One feels that victory today will all but see to that.
Three points will see United through to the last 16 which would be half the target in European competition achieved, Given the close nature of the Group, United cannot afford to put themselves in a position where they'll need a win on Match Day 6 in Germany. The plan was always to win the home games and nick a point away. Half of that plan has been achieved, the other will be determined tonight.
United at least will have Anthony Martial available for tonight to ease the injury nightmare up top. PSV, as we found out in the first leg are a very fit side that will come out to attack United even at Old Trafford. It's a modus that leaves them exposed at the back. In Holland, we failed to take the numerous chances we had to kill off the game. Tonight, the finishing simply has to be better.
Labels: LOUIS VAN GAAL, MEMPHIS DEPAY, REVIEWS, UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE