The finish line is finally in sight. Louis Van Gaal has been working so hard for this moment. As the club ends January with a convincing 3-1 victory at Old Trafford over Leicester City, it landed United, for the time being, in third place. With a Southampton win on Sunday, United will go into February in fourth place. Setting themselves in a prime position to make the Champions League next season- the big goal of the season.
Despite a strong pre-season and lots of money spend by the club last summer, Van Gaal warned it would be a process and it would take several months to gel and get everybody on the right page. Van Gaal also said that it wouldn’t always be easy and look pretty. And it hasn’t.
But, as the team finished up January with 43 points, the team is in a great spot. Riding a two-game winning streak and the schedule for the next five seems relatively easy: West Ham (8th), one win in last five, Burnley FC (17th), Swansea City (10th), 0-2-2 in last four, Sunderland (14th) and Newcastle United (11th) is what’s straight ahead for United.
Daley Blind, magnificent in todays win, says the club is getting very close to the style that Van Gaal has been trying to install.
“We come closer every week to the way Louis van Gaal wants us to play. We are on the right track and we are happy.
“Of course you want a clean sheet but 3-1 at home, we played a good game and it is a good result.
Perfect timing for the team to peak.
All of the next five matches by United are winnable matches. While some of their top contenders for a top-4 spot face tougher tasks, United has a legitimate chance to earn all 15 points in February and into the first weekend in March. After the Newcastle United match, the league goes on a week recess for international break. By then, United should have begun to separate themselves from fifth place and really focus on the end of the season. All great teams, once they see the prize they become immortal in their goal.
After the break, United will have nine matches left. The buzz and hype surrounding the club will be immense, and Van Gaal with a buffer zone would not let the team lose unnecessary points.
That’s why, the next five matches is what will make or break United’s season. They have a tough end to the season, playing Manchester City and Chelsea back-to-back and face-off against Arsenal the second to last weekend of the season, but down the stretch the club who holds their own destiny will have a massive advantage. They can play to their strengths and force the opponent to play into their tactics. Exactly what Van Gaal, a master strategist, wants. A strong month would also give United very strong momentum.
They said Champions League is priority number one, and Van Gaal’s team can have one foot into the tournament in just five weeks. Their best football needs to be now.
A year ago today, United lost to Stoke City and were in 7th place, and 6 points from fourth place. Now, we’re playing the most meaningful football in two years with the Champions League a serious reality.
With that, enjoy your week.