|Marcus Rashford celebrates his premier league debut goal|
Just when Manchester United's season was ripe for its last funeral rites, up stepped the kids. Like the ones the club is famed for bringing through their ranks and assimilating them into the first team. Like the ones that demystified the myth that you cannot win anything with kids.
In Manchester United's most important week of the season so far, United's status in all competitions was up for examination. Despite the importance attached to the last three games, Louis van Gaal has awarded club debuts to five more players in this week alone. Joe Riley, Regan Poole, James Weir, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Marcus Rashford have made their Manchester United bows this week. Added to Cameron-Borthwick Jackson, Guillermo Varela and Jesse Lingard, Old Trafford is witnessing a pool of talent blood before them.
It is not that the youth are simply making up the numbers in a United squad that is desperately injury ravaged. Louis van Gaal's group of debutants are actively shaping the destiny of United's season in a most unprecedented fashion.
Marcus Rashford, for instance, has seen his stock rise from an U-21s debutant to potentially Manchester United's greatest goal-scoring asset in the current set up. What with four goals in two games? Whilst it was easy to brush aside that he could manage a brace on his debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, repeating the feat against a side that van Gaal considers 'the best in the premier league' is something else.
At 18 years and 120 days, the teenager matched the debut scoring feat of Wayne Rooney at the club. Like the captain had then, Rashford has a fearlessness about him that leads him to run at defenders with or without the support of his teammates. His intelligent movement in the box has made it all the more easier for him to be in the right place at the right time to put away every half-decent chance that has found him in the penalty area. It's a package that has made him, so far, a defender's nightmare. Where does his story go from here? Regardless, he will never forget how it all started, Frankly, neither will we...or Leicester City fans.
In the grand scheme of things, Manchester United recorded three straight wins for the first time since November, and threreby reigniting their hopes of landing a top four finish. Their biggest enemy in that quest remains their consistency especially against teams from the bottom half of the table. 15 points against sides in the top six of the league is an incredible return for a side aiming for the title, except that it is points against the alsorans that really matter over a 38 game season.
It's astonishing that United have picked up points from Chelsea (1), Arsenal (3), Manchester City (1), Liverpool (6), Tottenham Hotspur (3) and Leicester City (1) whilst have dropped more to the likes of Bournemouth (3), Swansea (3), Newcastle United (4), Norwich City (3) and Sunderland (3). Therein lies the challenge ahead for United at home to Watford on a Wednesday night. The opportunity to build on an important league win. It's an opportunity that has not been taken often by the club this season leading to a run of just three wins in 13 league games since November before kickoff yesterday.
|Louis van Gaal throws himself to the ground in protest to the amusement of Old Trafford and indeed Mike Dean|
For Louis van Gaal, the will to back him in what is turning out to be a long goodbye was shown to be evident yesterday when the fans chanted 'Louis van Gaal's red army' at Old Trafford for the first time in a long, long while. It was spurred by what will go down in history as one of the most bizzare moments by a Manchester United manager when he threw himself to the ground infront of fourth official Mike Dean to protest the ease with which Alexis Sanchez threw himself to the ground to win the latest of a series of soft free kicks for Arsenal. Finally he was out of his seat protesting apparent injustice to his side! After seeing his side score 11 in a week, 8 at Old Trafford, he was due some slack from an arena that had since turned poisonous for him and his players.
Unfortunately, United's season has tailed off so much that he remains on trial on a game to game basis. Fail to get a result at home to Watford in the league and the house of cards will come crumbling down after what has been a very positive week.