Manchester United's win over Liverpool fails to distract from attacking deficiencies

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Louis van Gaal will have undoubtedly felt relieved following his side's win over Liverpool on Saturday, with the pressure considerably lifted off the Dutchman's shoulders.

After what was an improvement performance upon recent times, his Manchester United side now occupy third in the Premier League and have amassed five points more after five games than they had last season.

All the signs so far point to this campaign being more successful than the last, and yet somehow it does not feel any different from last season.


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Van Gaal's rigid adherence to possession football still looks out of place at Old Trafford. For all their possession, United managed a paltry three shots on target. Luckily for them they made each one count.

But it is still a far cry from the days of Sir Alex Ferguson when the Red Devils routinely made more chances than that in the final five minutes of some games.

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In the middle of the park, the Red Devils look classy as they spray the ball around with neat and clever touches and passes, yet in the final third, where it really counts, they look distinctly average. Until the arrival of young Anthony Martial, United lacked penetration and movement up front.

After his emphatic performance last season at Anfield, Juan Mata was underwhelming, stuck out on the right-wing. Memphis Depay showed plenty of skill but precious little end-product on the left. The more direct running of his replacement Ashley Young gave the toothless United attack a bit more bite.

With Liverpool happy to sit back and play on the counter, it seemed that the only way through for United would be from a set-piece. And so it proved.

An intelligently worked free-kick straight from the training ground fooled the Merseyside defence and allowed an unmarked Daley Blind to fire a wonderful shot into the top corner.

That was followed by a well-executed penalty from Ander Herrera, with two sublime goals from Christian Benteke and Martial putting a shine on what had been a dour game.

When the euphoria over the result eventually dies down, people will realise that little has changed. Just like last season, United have beaten Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at home and lost to Swansea away. 

While their passing game looks more fluent, with the arrival of players like Bastian Schweinsteiger adding much-needed creativity, their attacking capabilities seem largely unimproved. New signing Martial may well change all that, but it is expecting a lot of the 19-year-old to think that he can replicate his 30-minute cameo across the course of a full season.

But fate seems to smile on the Dutchman. Despite marginally improving on David Moyes' record he managed to steer United into the top-four, and this term a decent start puts them six points clear of champions Chelsea.

Although there are slight signs of improvement the Red Devils still look a long way of a side that can win the title.

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Louis van Gaal
Premier League
Manchester United

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