Manchester United are finally back in business. After managing only one victory in entire October, the Red Devils, under Louis van Gaal, have now secured four consecutive wins in November that leaves them in fourth position in the Premier League, five points behind Champions Manchester City.
Despite being unfortunate with series of injuries to key players in almost every position, and playing out with a bedraggled defence on a weekly basis, United have been able to give priority to points over performance, putting side their misfortunes behind. We take a look at five highlighting factors that have led to United’s mini-revival.
Excellent home-form, phycological boost
Manchester United’s success (or for that matter any great teams) throughout their history have always been banked on impressive home form. The confidence builds up once you start to win games at home. Three of their last four victories have come at Old Trafford, while they’ve won six games out of eight at home so far compared to only three at this stage last season.
The 2-1 away victory against Arsenal was important too. Along with three vital points, the psychological boost received was equally immense.
“But we have a good base now with an away win and now we can go back to Old Trafford and build on that,” said Smalling after the match.
Team beginning to gel under Van Gaal
It was bound to happen. The team, with so many new players coming in, needed time to know each other and play according to the manager’s philosophy.
Although, the team is no where playing near their full potential, but it is evident, that they are starting to gel under the Dutchman.
Marouane Fellaini, who scored against Stoke City, said after the match, via Guardian:
“We know each other a lot better. We know the manager and the staff so we know the philosophy of the manager. We train hard as well so we have to continue like that.”
David Superman de Gea
The Spanish goal keeper is attracting lot of headlines these days – on both front and back pages. While his future has been well speculated in the media, the Spanish press linking him with a move to Real Madrid, on pitch, he has been the true saviour of Manchester United.
“De Gea’s the most important player at the moment at United,” former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen told Sky Sports.
“He has made so many incredible saves. We always knew he had that in his game and now he has really settled into the Premier League.
“He was a young kid when he came to the league… he’s still young and it takes time. It takes three seasons and what he has done is matured and grown into the Premier League. He knows now what to expect and you can see how he performs.”
Against Arsenal he made nine saves and produced another string of important saves against Stoke City on Tuesday night. Mind, he doesn’t enjoy the luxury of having a strong and stable back four like Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, which makes his effort all the more heroic.
With an average of 1.14 goal conceded (fragile back four in front of him) & 1.88 average saves per goal, he is right up there among top goal keepers in the Premier League if not in entire Europe.
Midfield duo Herrera & Fellaini
Herrera produced two brilliant performances in his last two games for United. Soccerlens writer Tam wrote in his Match Day observation against Stoke City:
Manchester United have always been known for that one utility player who can play anywhere in midfield in the Alex Ferguson era. The Red Devils have been crying out for such a player over the past few seasons who can aid the midfield on the inside or on the wings.
Ander Herrera finally looks to the missing jigsaw on the puzzle. Against Hull City, the Spaniard was all over the pitch displaying immense ability, going forward or picking out incisive passes with great vision. On Tuesday night too, Herrera looked clam and composed on the ball, willing to play as the runner role and tracking back whenever needed.
Fellaini, the towering Belgian, probably would have left Manchester United to join Napoli in summer, had he not suffered an ankle injury weeks before the transfer deadline day.
He struggled to make an impact after returning from injury, but that one sub appearance against West Brom has changed his position at the club completely.
Let his stats do the talking – playing on the right hand side of the midfield against Stoke City, he had three shots on target, averaged 86% passing accuracy, produced five crosses, won 80% ariel duels, made 83% tackles and made four clearances as well.
Individual brilliance, squad players putting shift
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were superb against Hull City, both netting brilliant goals in United’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Angel di Maria, the new record signing, may not produce the kind of performance that Alexis Sanchez has been doing for Arsenal, but the Argentine has maintained a certain level of consistency in his performance.
Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young have delivered what has been asked of them. Overall, the team chemistry has never been this good in the past 18 months. And United can only improve from here on, once the key players return from injury.