Monday, 8 February 2016

HAVE UNITED TURNED A CORNER UNDER LOUIS VAN GAAL?


I signed off the last blog a couple of weeks ago calling for a consistency in performances if not results to mirror the excellent showing at the iPro stadium against Derby County in the FA Cup. I thought United showed on the day that they had it in them to not only entertain but also score enough goals to win games. That performance was bettered by Lous van Gaal's side on the following Tuesday against Stoke City.

Whilst the wheels have somewhat fallen off for the Potteries since their Boxing Day victory against us, the manner in which Mark Hughes' side was dispatched suggested that United have finally come out of hiding. Indeed, it has not been often this season that United have turned in two consecutive good performances.

Anthony Martial's goal particular was set up by one of the best counter-attacks United will execute this season---if not for the ingenuity of Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata---for the number of players involved in executing the move. Counter-attacks are mostly effective when executed by a couple or trio of players. Less numbers minimise the chances of a pass or a touch going wrong. That United had up to six players involved without either of them putting a foot wrong was a marvel to watch.


Even so, there was always the suspicion that United wouldn't be able to keep up the upturn in performances let alone results when they visited Chelsea this past weekend. That we are disappointed having come away from Stamford Bridge with a point and another accomplished performance is the latest response by Louis van Gaal to the speculation surrounding his future next season.

Chelsea might not be anywhere near the succulent positions of the league table but they remain a side with an elite selection of players, winners--heck, they are still the Champions of England--so for United to maintain their level against them to three games in a row now is timely for Louis van Gaal.


Media speculation is rife that the club have been in contact with Jose Mourinho over a potential summer switch, meaning that the manager would not be allowed to enter his final year of his contract. Van Gaal has reacted brutally to the speculation and it appears his margin of error has virtually been wiped out.


Therein that speculation however is where the current upturn of United's performances have been lost. Ganted, this weekend, United fell all of six points behind the Champions League places, a less than ideal scenario with just over a dozen games left, but it's been so long since United had consistent method to their play that one wonders what the permutations next term could be if the club does in fact end the season on the high that is ever more likely.


Suddenly, the return of Michael Carrick seems to have added the composure to our midfield that we've lacked for the past two months. Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial seem to relish the freedom on the flanks and Wayne Rooney seems to love Juan Mata just off him. Even Marouanne Fellaini seems to have turned a corner in the middle of the park.


If this is a case of the players are finally understanding and enjoying their roles, then Ed Woodward might want to hang on and see how far this revival can take the club. Louis van Gaal remains a man on trial 20 months into his reign but he seems to have found a formula to work with albeit belatedly. The balance between attack and defence has never been as good as these past three weeks under him. United last turned in an un-United performance against Southampton. It's been entertaining since. For how long though? 

United are first up next weekend at Sunderland on a weekend when the top four are in direct competition. Win that and suddenly the complexion changes ahead of a relatively comfortable run in to May. Lose however and it will all come crumbling down again. 

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