Manchester United ended a run of losses and draws with a 2-1 win over Swansea City. Louis van Gaal had never won a game against Swansea so the win would be even more welcomed.
Here are five things we learned from the game
Anthony Martial looks his promising self again
Martial started the season ever so well but with a dip in the team’s form, Martial’s form also took a turn for the worse. It isn’t fair for a 19-year-old to have the burden of being the club’s primary goalscorer. And with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay not doing too well, Martial not scoring was hurting the club even more. However, the Frenchman showed just why he is so highly rated as he scored the first goal and set up the winner.
Wayne Rooney shows why he is undroppable
Rooney has arguably been the most disappointing player of the season, not just at Manchester United but in the league as a whole. The United captain is expected to lead the team by example but hasn’t been able to do that. He hasn’t put on performances that justify his status or his weekly wage at the club. The fact that Louis van Gaal had been picking him in every match except one where he was dropped to the bench was causing serious annoyance in the fan base. This match proved just why the Dutchman couldn’t recede him to the bench. It was a much more positive performance from Rooney and he scored the all important winner in a beautiful manner. The first goal since October would greatly help him and the team as he hopes for a better return in front of goal in the second half of the season.
Louis van Gaal has the all important backing
Manchester United’s recent failings have put immense pressure on the manager. If the Chelsea draw was a slight indication that the players were playing for van Gaal, the resolve to come back and win the game in the last minutes gives complete proof that Louis van Gaal has the complete support of the players, which is so important in today’s times. Despite going without a win in the entire month of December, United still find themselves in the fifth place. The fact that the players are behind him can help the Dutchman turn things around and he can still aim to finish in the top 4, doing which would mean success of last season is sustained.
Credit to van Gaal for changing the system
Manchester United are trying to play an expansive brand of football as evidenced against Chelsea and Swansea. The Dutchman has been criticised for playing a style that curbs the attacking instincts of his players and it seems like the manager is switching to a more attacking style of play, which is clearly paying dividends. He stopped playing three at the back last season but the Dutchman went back to it and the system brought out the best from the team. It wasn’t a traditional 3-4-2-1 as Young and Martial operated high up the pitch on the flanks and Schneiderlin protected the back three with Herrera and Schweinsteiger ahead of him in the midfield. This match demonstrated why having so many top options in the midfield is so beneficial as Swansea often couldn’t mark Young or Martial on the wings having to deal with the threat of one of the midfielders centrally. In defence, you usually expect the wingers to drop back as full-backs, but Young and Martial weren’t expected to do that as Schneiderlin dropped back as a fourth defender into the space created where a defender was pulled out of position. After 60 minutes, van Gaal changed the system back to a four man back line and tried to protect the lead his side had.
Ashley Young remains a key player
Ashley Young, who was out of favour for a while, played in his regular winger and proved why he has been regarded as a key player under van Gaal. The former Villa player consistently created opportunities for his teammates and gave Neil Taylor a tough time. He supplied Anthony Martial with the cross that gave them the initial lead. He came off 10 minutes before the final whistle with a knock and United would certainly hope it isn’t a serious one as Young looks a key player in the side’s aspirations to finish with a Champions League berth next season