December 2, Manchester United versus Stoke. The visitors created chance after chance at Old Trafford and produced a performance to be proud of. United won 2-1.
December 8, Southampton versus Manchester United. United spent the majority of the game soaking up an enormous amount of pressure. They won 2-1.
December 14, Manchester United versus Liverpool. After the men from Anfield created 19 shots on goal, United claimed a 3-0 victory.
They may seem like second best but Louis van Gaal’s men are on the up. The question is how are they doing it?
Building from Between the Sticks
When your strategy involves strong defending and then countering, a solid defence is key. United don’t have this, but what they do have is an outstanding goalkeeper.
David de Gea has produced countless saves which have seen United to victory. His positioning, authority and overall shot stopping are nothing short of superb. What makes this even more remarkable is that United’s crippling injury list means he has had numerous makeshift defences in front of him.
Gone are the days when he was known for shoplifting doughnuts and spilling it into his own net against Sunderland. Now he is the custodian of a team who takes the man of the match award when his team wins 3-0.
Out of form strikeforce
This may seem slightly bizarre but United have managed to assault the Premier League without a world beating strikeforce. Whereas Chelsea have Diego Costa and Manchester City have Sergio Aguero, United are lacking. Wayne Rooney has seemingly peaked by producing a reasonable haul but will perhaps never achieve much more.
Radamel Falcao arrived with a huge reputation but has delivered little. Worst of all, Van Gaal himself admitted that he is currently only fit enough to play 20 minutes per game. Unfortunately, United need more than this.
Van Gaal’s Dutch counterpart Robin van Persie has also gone off the boil. While it was widely reported that playing under Van Gaal would revive the former Arsenal man, he seems to lack his once lethal efficiency. United may be wise to offload him and build for the future. In spite of this though, United have obviously held enough attacking impetus to put them where they are.
The Fear Factor
Under David Moyes, United seemingly lost the intimidation factor that was so crucial under Sir Alex Ferguson. Van Gaal’s presence, track record and all round aura has brought this intimidation back.
Now teams feel up against it before a ball has been kicked. With the greatest respect to Moyes, he could never have achieved this. Under Van Gaal however, regardless of how they play, United are frightening.
In spite of not being at their best United are making their way back. How ironic that in the aftermath of the proceeding game against Liverpool last season, United fans were howling for blood while Brendan Rogers was being hailed. My, how times have changed.