It is now the settled trend that Louis van Gaal always has a four game span of decent results before the club quickly returns to crisis mode. Only once this season have the club had a five game span of positive results. Never in the Dutchman's tenure have United pulled together more than five positive results in all competitions.
On Wednesday, United simply got out of jail against Watford by coming away with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Unless the level of performance was improved it was always going to be a difficult time at the Hawthorns for the Red Devils.
Except that Juan Mata contrived to make it even more difficult by getting himself sent off with more than an hour of the game left to play. That it was a sending off out of character (his first in his career) made it even more baffling. The average age of the current United side and the fragile levels of confidence makes playing with 10 men for such a length of time a tough ask.
In typical Louis van Gaal fashion, out went the industrious talents of Guillermo Varela, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin, who were high on confidence and in came Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Matteo Darmian. Of the lot, it was Schneiderlin's exclusion that made for the biggest concern taking into account United's record without the French anchorman from the start. Ander Herrera seemed to perform better in a combination with Schneiderlin than with Michael Carrick. One would have hopped that their last couple of performances as a pair would have convinced the manager to stick with the pair for much longer.
It turns out that the manager had half an eye on Thursday's Europa league meeting with Liverpool at Anfield. What a time to be alive then! Risking qualification for the Champions League via the league so as to earn qualification for the Champions league via the Europa league.
Most worrying for United will be that at a time when the senior players are returning to injury, the club's performances seem to have adopted their default outlook. The verve of playing with youth seems to have gone with the departed youth. Suddenly, we're back to the damp squibs that we've been served for the majority of the season.
Yet again, it appears that the manager has landed on a winning formula by default of injuries and has quickly been exposed again as soon as his senior players returned---the ones that understand his methods best! It's now predictable that there shall be more highs/wins of note under Louis van Gaal between now and the end of the season but it also the case there shall be more lows ahead for the club.
A confidence shot United travels to Anfield on Thursday in the Europa league. Van Gaal led his team out of jail on the last visit there. A penny for your thoughts on how you feel events on Thursday will unfold.