After Wednesday’s win over Newcastle, it’s become evident just how big three points it really was.
Young’s goal in the 89th minute was enough for the win but it became apparent how vital a winning goal was in the middle of the game once the positions of the league table switched around mid-game.
Arsenal, Southampton, Spurs, Liverpool and Southampton all won too and had Young not struck, United would be left in fifth ahead of their tough run-in. As it stands, they go into the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal with two wins on the bounce with huge games coming up.
Van Gaal seems to have found a balanced system, two consecutive clean sheets and good performances in a row suggest that. He’s got Wayne Rooney playing as a striker and scoring goals, he’s got Ander Herrera into the midfield with Daley Blind and dominating games and he’s got Ashley Young performing well consistently. It’s not all rosey though.
Angel Di Maria continues to struggle in a wide position as he followed up his half-time substitution against Sunderland with a 58 minute display of hot-and-cold football before being subbed once again. The performance against Sunderland was a stinker but the attention it’s attracted is totally unwarranted. His performance last night wasn’t nearly as bad many are making out, yet he was slated by pundits and fans for an awful performance. No mention of his assist for Rooney’s wrongly disallowed goal or his stunning pass for Fellaini’s chance that forced an excellent double save by Tim Krul.
Many called for the Argentine to be dropped ahead of the game at St James’ and those calls have only got louder after his substitution. But with Arsenal at home in the FA Cup the start of the toughest run-in in recent memory, Di Maria has to play.
Van Gaal has spoken of the need for his star man to bed into the club, culture and way of football in England. He won’t get that without playing regularly. He was excellent in the win at the Emirates back in November and should have scored late on to make it 3-0. He’s a big game player, something he proved with his man of the match display in Lisbon last May. If anyone in the squad will relish this run in as much as Wayne Rooney, it’s Angel Di Maria.
With the formation seemingly found and the personnel beginning to perform well in it, it’s down to Van Gaal to get the best from his man for the remaining potential 13 games of the season. Everything up to this point in the season is now rendered pointless. There’s no point looking back on it.
What’s left is in our hands. 13 games to get Champions League football and a potential trophy in the cabinet for Louis van Gaal. The season starts with Arsenal in the FA Cup and it’s a mini tournament for the Top 4. We beat our rivals over the remaining games then we will achieve our goals. If not, we’ll almost certainly miss out. It’s in our hands and there’s nobody else to blame if we don’t do it.
The season starts now!