The story in Monday night’s clash against West Brom was one which is becoming all too familiar, with goals flying in at both ends and more questions than answers regarding Louis van Gaal’s “philosophy” and a host of his squad. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and we’ve picked out five reasons to be hopeful that the 2-2 draw was a minor blip in United’s rise back to their rightful place near the top of the table.
Daley Blind is Great
The unsung hero amongst United’s summer signings, the Dutchman has quietly gone about shoring up the midfield and providing a platform from which the attacking members of the team can spring. That finish for the equalising goal was a pleasant surprise as well. Blind operates in the same areas as Michael Carrick but he does so with more conviction, pace and intent. Carrick has a fight on his hands if he wants to make his way back into the starting eleven this season.
Our Defenders are Fit Again
Okay, so there were some defensive nightmares on show against the Baggies. Luke Shaw couldn’t have kept possession if his Geordie Shore haircut depended on it and Phil Jones looked – at times – like he’s never played at centre half before in his life. However, it’s nice to have options again. With Jones back in the side and Chris Smalling on the bench, we have enough functioning central defenders that LvG should be able to work out his strongest combination. Healthy competition can only lead to an improvement in individual performances too, we would hope.
We’re certainly not advocating the inclusion of Fellaini in the starting line-up – the scepticism surrounding the ex-Everton man is entirely justified. It was a delight to witness him beginning to pay back some of that (hugely over-inflated) price tag though. He may still prove to be a flop but in games where the likes of Mata, Herrera and Januzaj are struggling to make an impact, he gives us a Plan B. Not a pretty one, admittedly, but it sure paid off on Monday.
LvG is Sticking with Four at the Back
The defence still needs a lot of work but I think we’re all in agreement that the 3-5-2 system deployed at the beginning of the season was catastrophic. Perhaps it was little more than an experiment, or perhaps the manager’s hand was forced due to the selection of players who were fit and available, but it’s so much easier to have confidence in United’s ability to keep the goals out with four lining up in front of De Gea. This does of course, require those four players to display some sort of positional sense (looking at you, Phil).
The Big Money Men
It’s difficult to put my admiration for Angel Di Maria into words; he’s the most exciting attacking footballer to pull on a red shirt since Ronaldo’s departure in 2009 and an absolute joy to watch. Football is a results business but watching exhilarating, free-flowing football at least takes the edge off a couple of dropped points. Radamel Falcao didn’t have long to make an impact against West Brom but all of the signs are good. The goals aren’t exactly rolling in just yet but all of the signs are good – he’s powerful, relentless, and there is no doubt that he’s going to be a massive hit at Old Trafford.