Manchester United are back on track. Finally, as the season enters its dying embers, Louis van Gaal has something to smile about.
Beating Arsenal at Old Trafford with a youthful albeit depleted team ranks as some achievement. Forget scintillating victories over Liverpool and Manchester City last season. This is the Dutchman’s finest hour.
The Theatre of Dreams has been anything but so far this campaign. Any hope of winning the Premier League title was gone by the start of the year. Yet for now, the title can wait. There are young players wearing the red of Manchester United again and the future suddenly shines bright.
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Arsenal rocked into town as favourites. Imagine that? So emphatic has United’s plight been since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 that the Gunners were expected to steamroll Van Gaal’s side. After all, who wins anything with kids?
But there is a stark contrast between the side that has lumbered through the majority of the campaign and the side that helped restore some pride at Old Trafford. The current crop, wounded yet walking, have passion. They care about the club. Some were born just a short distance from it.
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Marcus Rashford was the undisputed star of the show. 18-years-old, and now a man with four goals from his first two games for the club. Only time will tell whether he ends up the next Cristiano Ronaldo or Federico Macheda, yet for now he has succeeded in keeping his manager in a job.
Guillermo Varela and Jesse Lingard combined to help Rashford open the scoring in the 29th minute, whilst 20-year-old James Weir and 18-year-old Timothy Fosu-Mensah also made a contribution on an afternoon that could prove pivotal come the end of the season in May.
Though the whispers of Jose Mourinho arriving continue to grow in volume, Van Gaal now has some momentum in the side. They can still battle back from mediocrity to secure Champions League football next season.
The youngsters look up for the fight. Manchester City's mega-bucks can land talent but the drive and desire to succeed is what makes United’s current crop of academy graduates stand out. They remain raw and unpolished but several gems may have been unearthed.
To think that even United’s young guns were not at full strength. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, so composed in the club’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea in February, was missing. Joe Riley, who caught the eye against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League in midweek, was left on the bench.
This is certainly not a side ready to be crowned champions of anything, anytime soon. But Van Gaal has some real prospects in his squad and, if he can get them heading in the right direction, then they may be able to emulate the Class of '92 by bringing the glory days back to Old Trafford.
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