Football Sport

United like their old selves

Written by Ben Blaschke

We witnessed Manchester United’s best first half performance of the season last weekend as they stormed to a 3-0 lead after just 34 minutes against fellow top four aspirants Tottenham at Old Trafford. Although missing Ángel Di María, the most expensive player in British football, through injury, Louis Van Gaal’s team was quick to establish their dominance as goals to Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney capitalized on their dominance.

At times this season we have wondered if the great United dynasty was gone forever, with even Van Gaal appearing unable to save it. Their lack of imagination and attacking fluency has worried fans more accustomed to goals flowing like the Nile, especially given Van Gaal’s history of reversing a club’s fortunes in super-quick time. But the jigsaw has gradually been coming together and in fairness they’ve never looked back since pushing into the top four in November. The difference is that this Red Devils team has had to learn the art of winning ugly, scrapping to a number of 1-0 wins.

But against Tottenham, Van Gaal showed he is adapting to English football. He deployed Juan Mata and Ashley Young on the two flanks, supporting the towering Fellaini in his quasi-10 position. His aerial dominance in the box and their defensive contribution was key to the demolishing the Londoners.

Inconsistency remains their greatest concern and with nine games left this season, Van Gaal first faces a dogfight to claim one of those valuable top four positions before he can start dreaming of trophies again – which makes this weekend’s trip to Anfield to face bitter rivals Liverpool the biggest game of his United career so far. The Red Devils scored a memorable 3-0 win at Old Trafford earlier in the season but Liverpool has since rediscovered their mojo with five League wins in a row and 12 games unbeaten closing the gap between the two sides to just two points. What a game this should be!