|United's teenage sensation Marcus Rashford wheels away after opening the scoring in the Manchester derby|
You just knew it, didn't you? From the moment that Liverpool confirmed United's exit from Europe, Manchester United suddenly had their backs up against the wall as far as interest in their season is concerned. Perfect tonic then for Louis van Gaal to get in a big result and mask it all over again. Forget the catalogue of mistakes Demichellis did yesterday, Manchester City were simply in the right place at the wrong time.
In a week in which United could have been put out of their misery as far as hoping for a top four berth is concerned, the club are firmly back in the equation of Champions League football. It is testament to the crazy nature of this season that despite appalling levels of inconsistency, United are still in with a shout for the Champions League. Indeed, more baffling is that with just eight games to go, United could still mathematically get relegated!
Louis van Gaal seems at home whenever the club is faced with top opposition but loses his way when the alsorans come up against United. Indeed, 18 points from the top six sides is a record that ordinarily should win you the league. Except that the manager's methods have come up short against the likes of West Brom, Norwich, Bournemouth and the like. Take away results against the bottom six clubs and United would be comfortably sat in second spot in the league.
For fans, it is frustrating that often times this season, they've watched their club turn in results worthy of a league title and yet fail to repeat the most basic of tricks the following week. For the truly elite teams, consistency is their hallmark. Until United re-discover it, it will continue to be one step forward and two steps back.
On the bright side, yesterday was yet another occasion for the old school romantic to savour. Marcus Rashford became the first Mancunian to score in the Manchester Derby since Danny Welbeck in 2012. The 18 year old also became the youngest goalscorer in the derby in premier league history. It will also go down well that much of what was good about United came from a very young front three of Lingard, Rashford and Martial.
For the lovers of youth in United's first team, these are moments to behold. Modern trends in football dictate that not many clubs have one of their own to single out in their teams. Indeed, even for United, it is conceivable that it could easily change in the near future when the demand for success eventually overtakes reason. An Arsenal mate of mine couldn't help but wonder what such a front three, if nurtured, could develop into in five years' time.
Unfortunately football has degenerated to a level where you must spend 50m quid to get public approval of a genuine signing. The irony is that the league is about to be won by a bunch of rejects pooled with a few purchases worth loose change. Indeed, even West Ham United are threatening an eternal embarrassment of denying the two wealthiest clubs in the country a Champions League berth.
Perhaps we ought to take a step back and look at the old school values that made English clubs a European force to reckon with. Marcus Rashford is a Manchester United fan and therefore his dedication to the cause cannot be priced, let alone purchased in the transfer window. Not even a touch of cramp will derail his mission to see out a derby game. There was not a single City player on the pitch who seemed to understand the context of the game more than him. There was a time when we had six or seven of the starting XI in full derby mode, committed to the cause.
It is fair to conclude that outside the manger's failings, the absence of a bunch of lads fully committed to the cause is one of the main reasons United are inconsistent. As it is, folks will turn up only when it suits their profile or ego. Perhaps, another pointer as to why United are better off in the bigger games than when they're asked to grind out a result against the lesser teams!
A shame really, that the club has been reduced to a celebration of big one-off results! It takes away nothing from the achievements of those coming through the Academy to take charge of the situation. At least part of the solution is right before the club's eyes. Whether the people who matter can see it or not is another debate altogether.