Louis van Gaal's tenure at Manchester United hasn't been straightforward, but Sunday's performance at Southampton show all of the hard work might be finally showing the method behind the madness.
For starters, Ed Woodward, Louis van Gaal and Ryan Giggs will be all smiles right now and have an “I told you so.” moment directed to all the sceptics and critics about Anthony Martial’s price tag.
The boy is brilliant, he scored twice and forever kept his cool and temperament on check. Manchester United were awful for the first half hour, but it all changed when Martial scored the equaliser courtesy of Juan Mata’s pass in the penalty area. According to video replay, Mata was a tad off side, but of course United won't mind.
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For his second goal, Martial capitalised the slow backward pass from Maya Yoshida to goalkeeper Martin Sketelenburg. Martial’s predator’s instinct was in full force as he raced to the ball and shoot it low and hard against the keeper.
Juan Mata got the third after 44-passes that made it the longest sequence of passes before a goal from any team this season. But as United fans sang their heart out, Southampton stroke again with Graziano Pelle’s second on the day with four minutes of normal time remaining.
United managed to weather the storm in the final minutes of the game at St. Mary’s. David de Gea’s heroics would not have gone unnoticed since he made at least two crucial saves that could have turned the tie the other way.
The loss of Luke Shaw forced Louis van Gaal to reshape his starting 11 by re-installing Marcos Rojo back into the team. The new-look back four took some time to gel, but this could not have happened without the protection from Morgan Schneiderlin.
The French midfielder has been immense since his arrival at Old Trafford, His return to St. Mary’s on Sunday would remind Southampton fans how much they have missed him.
Without taking away the goals from Martial, this win could have been said as a more of a collective effort from the whole United team.
Southampton were brilliant on the counter-attack with Victor Wanyama and particularly Saido Mane. We could see why he was linked to a move to Old Trafford by his energetic display throughout the game. On another day, Mane could have been the man of the match.
The third epitomised Louis van Gaal's philosophy that he has desperately been trying to instill since he arrived at the helm.
The famous philosophy that had been said over and over since last year have finally come into fruition. The new era of football possession during a match from Manchester United has arrived, something that was unheard of during Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26 years in charge.
The fans need to get used to it. There will be no more of gung-ho approach from this team. It will be a more patient build-up that will eventually lead to a goal.
As for Anthony Martial, his three goals in three appearances for the club has silenced his critics. There was no pressure from the manager ever since he arrived but he kept paying the trust with his goals.
The fans will hope that Martial will not be another FedericoMacheda who scored two goals then disappeared. It is a huge task for the 19-year old, but it could only be done collectively with a little help from his friends.
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