Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes that the fans have played a hugely important part in a testing start to his Old Trafford tenure, with his plan very much to repay their faith with success on the pitch in 2015.
By United's very own high standards it's been a tumultuous 12 months, with Van Gaal replacing David Moyes and initially struggling to reverse a decline which the Scot never got close to halting during his disastrous reign as Red Devils boss.
Van Gaal has spent big in search of improvement and finally found some consistency in the form of a nine-match unbeaten run, but made a point in his latest press conference of insisting that the fantastic support his side have enjoyed all season has been a factor in their recent upturn in fortunes.
United fans back Van Gaal to get it right
Ahead of Thursday's clash with Stoke City the Dutchman was asked what stood out most in his first six months at United, responding: "The thing that has pleased me most is the fans, they are amazing.
"We started the season poorly, but in spite of that they have supported us, they have great belief in their squad and manager. I want to thank them because they've been very important in our weaker moments."
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Fighting spirit pleases LVG
United have certainly produced a first half of the campaign which falls in line with the club's minimum objective for this season, ensure Champions League qualification with a top-four finish.
The Red Devils side are third heading into the New Year and not completely out of the title picture at this stage, a position which Van Gaal feels has been reached thanks to the desire of his players to fight until the final whistle, when fit anyway.
Van Gaal said: "In terms of the team, I think it has to be our fighting spirit, and I think that's why the fans have supported us every week. In some matches we've been behind, the players have had to fight until the end, and they've done that successfully."
United will definitely need to show grit and determination to keep their fine of recent form intact at the Britannia Stadium, a place where Stoke have made mincemeat of Champions League contenders consistently in recent times.
If Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie can get their shooting boots on United will be confident of success though, both against Stoke and in a 2014 which promises more big spending and high expectations to match for Van Gaal's side.
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