Five things we learned from Southampton vs United

1. It’s nice to be hated again

Last season was very odd for Manchester United. Whilst most of Britain was doubled over laughing at the club’s annus horribilus, some began to pity the twenty times champions. Sky Sports’ cheerleading of United’s return legs against Olympiakos and Bayern Munich in the Champions League was something that fans of the club have not been used to since the channel’s takeover of all things football. It was extremely unnerving to see Sky’s commentator’s showing an obvious bias towards United at the Allianz Arena and it highlighted the club’s fall from grace. On Monday night though, normal service had resumed. Sky highlighted how poor United had been and stated something akin to disgust that they had secured the three points. Social media was full of people bemoaning United’s never say die attitude on the field. The club were back to being the villains who stole victory from the jaws of defeat. This is the way it has been for twenty years and, I must say, it’s good to be back.

2. Robin van Persie has still got it

The Dutchman has had a lethargic and indifferent season so far but he was deadly in front of goal on Monday night. His overall standard of play was top drawer too and he was easily the pick of the United players on the evening. His first season at United was full of the kind of goals he scored at St Mary’s. Indeed the ground was home to one of his greatest moments in a United shirt when his hat-trick secured three vital points early on in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season. A fit and goal-happy Van Persie is something that could be vital in changing the face of the Premier League this season.

3. We need a fit defence, and fast

The defence all played their part in what was an all-round shoddy display at the back but Paddy McNair was the pick of the bunch. The Irishman gave an abysmal performance at St Mary’s and it was difficult to be surprised. When he was first thrown into the first team fold he was assured and looked very impressive, but his performances have dropped off of late and he is showing signs of finding it tough going in the Premier League. This is, of course, to be expected when a young defender is thrown in amongst a defence that is unsettled and racked with injury. If Rafael, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Luke Shaw don’t plan on getting new legs for Christmas then Louis van Gaal will need to dip into the transfer market come January.

4. Marouane Fellaini is a first XI player until we find better

The Belgian didn’t have the best game of his career then again neither did anyone else in blue; but until Louis van Gaal addresses the need for a combative midfielder Fellaini is the best partner for Michael Carrick, Daley Blind or Ander Herrera. Both he and Herrera were lambasted on social media for their poor performances but they worked hard for the team and helped to make sure United came away with the three points. Herrera’s passing in particular was awful but, as a substitute, he brought with him a pair of fresh legs that aided United in grinding out a victory.

5. A title charge might not be completely beyond the realms of fantasy

With Chelsea’s invincibility ended with relative ease at the weekend and Kun Aguero presumably out until the new year, a run of victories for United over the Christmas period may well put United amongst the favourites for the title in the new year. It’s not asking an awful lot for the Reds to get close to maximum points from the games they will be facing from now until January 1st and a successful transfer window could see Louis van Gaal’s side strengthened adequately enough with challenges from both City and Chelsea. Those sides are presumably both going to be competing in the Champions League again come February whilst United have the relative luxury of not being involved in Europe’s premier club competition this season (thanks, David), so will be fresher for the domestic title run-in. With a fit first choice defence, Falcao and Angel di Maria, Manchester United could well become the 21 times English champions in May.

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