As we embark upon the festive period; Kevin Levingston gives ten reasons why this should be a season of cheer for all Reds…
Whisper it, but United are on their way back. Six months on from the fetid mess “he-who-must-not-be-named” bequeathed to his successor a certain Mr Van Gaal has strolled (read: swaggered) into his new courtroom and has pulled this United team out of the mire. It seemed like it would be a long road back – and there’s still quite a way to go – but with every passing game; Reds the world over are being given yet another small glimpse of the United they thought they had lost. It’s been a welcome sight. Here we take a look at ten reasons all Reds can be particularly festive this Christmas.
- We are the form team in the league.
Let’s start with the obvious one, shall we? The spectacular three goal Scouser-smashing that took place on Sunday extended the Reds’ winning run to six games. Despite the context of these victories (more on that later), one irrefutable truth remains; you can’t argue with results, or in this case points on the board. Impressive showings against Hull and Liverpool, slightly fortuitous victories against Stoke and Southampton and a frankly hilarious triumph over Arsenal all count for the same thing when you strip the nonsense away. Three points, three points, three points…and so on. Haters can argue with a lot, but the table doesn’t lie. Speaking of which…
- We’re just eight points behind the leaders.
How in heaven has that happened? A month ago all United fans had to console themselves with amidst points comparisons from last season was the fact that Liverpool were somehow – inexplicably – doing even worse. Throw into that the nauseating narrative that crowned Chelsea as de facto champions (invincibles? Guardians of all that is good and holy?) and the heady surroundings in which we now find ourselves seemed an all too distant memory. We’re not quite home yet – and we may take another detour before we get there – but we’ve turned the corner onto a more familiar street. What’s most impressive about it all is…
- We’ve not actually been playing that well.
The after effects of last season. A raft of new players. A number of old players kicked to the kerb. A new boss. A new coaching staff. A new philosophy. It’s fair to say that this United team is in a state of transition the likes of which has not been seen at Old Trafford for almost thirty years. Combine all of the above factors with a devastatingly long injury list and our new manager’s keep-throwing-it-at-the-wall-even-if-it-doesn’t-stick approach to formations and the result is a number of United teams that perform as somewhat less than the sum of their available parts. If anything, we have achieved a number of victories in spite of our formation and approach. However the mist is beginning to clear and the boys are starting to look like they know what to do once they put the shirt on and go out onto that big green thing with all the people watching. The fact that we’ve managed six wins with these performances makes you quite excited for what could happen once it all clicks. Speaking of things that will help with that…
- It looks like we might have some actual players available soon.
Before the Liverpool game the boss broke the welcome news that we had just four (FOUR) first team players missing through injury. Having been perennially without ten or more first team players since the season began and setting all sorts of new records for injuries; you would be forgiven for bursting into tears in sheer unadulterated joy at the possibility of naming an even slightly similar team on a weekly basis. It’s time to give the physiotherapists some much needed time off (with a smack around the head for good measure) and embrace what is hopefully the end of our injury crisis. With Messrs Falcao, Di Maria and our entire defence returning to action of late things are beginning to look particularly rosy in that department. Just don’t talk about it. Or not talk about it. Or even look at them. Actually let’s move on because this entire paragraph is starting to make me nervous….
- United are still promoting and playing home grown talent.
If you count him-what-went-to-Arsenal that we definitely didn’t love or even remotely like, this season has seen nine academy products feature for Mr Van Gaal’s United. For a season that was flagged as a flagrant departure from all the youth-promoting policies the club previously held dear; the evidence presents an entirely different picture. Whatshisface may have departed for pastures bland to continue his outstanding form on the left wing but in truth United have been as loyal to their policy of giving youth a chance as ever. Whatever the future brings for them; Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett have been key players for us already this season and it’s almost certain that James Wilson will play his part before the season ends. Whilst we’re talking about playing a part…
- Louis Van Gaal is a man who believes in redemption.
If that man can get a certain Belgian nonce to make an actual positive contribution to first team fortunes then you have to believe he’s capable of anything. All joking aside, Fellaini has been a man transformed this season, and whilst his form has admittedly dipped a little in the past two games; the fact that he’s even here and playing at all is a miracle. You need look no further than Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young to see two more examples of players the Old Trafford faithful had all but given up on, only for them to rise from what many perceived to be an irretrievable irrelevance. It’s likely that when the boss finishes assembling his team over the next few transfer windows that these lads will be little more than squad players but for now they can enjoy their redemption tale, safe in the knowledge that whatever success we have this season couldn’t have been achieved without them.
- Our keeper is in the form of his life.
What more can you say about Big Dave that hasn’t already been said? In short, the Spaniard is in the form of his life and starting to realize the potential we all knew he possessed. People more knowledgeable than me will have (and have had) their say on De Gea’s rise to prominence over the past year or so but really it boils down to this; Dave saves. He never looks flustered and even the most extravagant (borderline offensive) stops are met with a shrug of the shoulders or a sheepish gesture to his rear-guard. It doesn’t bear thinking about where we might be this year without his efforts. At twenty-three years old he’s already one of the best keepers in Europe and in truth his potential is frightening. Give him the car, give him the house, give him whatever he wants and throw in a couple of donuts for good measure. This lad cannot be allowed to leave our club.
- We are third on merit.
Despite what the media narrative and rival (cough, Liverpool, COUGH) fans would have you think, United are not in third place by accident or any fortunate aligning of the heavens. For all our defensive woes we have the fourth best defensive record, combined with the third most goals scored. Our goal difference? Third best in the league. Taking a look at our fixtures going forward we only play one team that finished in the top six last season (Tottenham) in our next fifteen games carrying us right through to our trip to Liverpool on March 21st. Whilst it would be foolish to take any game as a given, the fixture list has finally been kind to United and at the very least gives the Reds a good opportunity to continue their good form. Top four has to be the minimum expectation. Third would be acceptable. Second is achievable. It’s probably a bit much to have genuine ambitions to win the league, and yet…
- Expect more players to arrive in January.
The club made massive strides last summer towards rebuilding the side and shipping out some of the rot, but it’s clear as day that the job is only halfway complete. Significant reinforcements are still required – particularly in defence – and it is almost certain that players will arrive in January. Ed has been briefing the press in the last few weeks that United’s “aggressive” approach in the transfer market is set to continue, and whilst the man is always four parts water, one part squash; last summer he proved that he could get the job done when it mattered. He even secured actual money from a club for Alex Buttner. Expect players to be brought in as United prepare for Champions League next year. If the right players are secured, who knows where we might end up?
- The feel-good factor is back.
Anyone with a pair of eyes can see the difference in the United camp this season compared to last. Results are going our way and the players are fully invested in the approach of the new gaffer. Belief is a heck of a thing. It won’t happen overnight, but if the rush to denounce and detract from United’s current standing from rival fans and less than objective media hacks tells you anything, let it tell you this; Manchester United is a club on the rise. Now if that’s not a reason to be happy I don’t know what is!