Twenty Four hours on from Manchester United’s most thrilling encounter in months, the Premier League table looks much clearer. Arsenal, Manchester City, and Tottenham all dropped points ahead of United in the table, while Liverpool dropped points behind them. If December was ground zero for United’s time with Louis Van Gaal at the helm, our trip to 18th placed Newcastle may have more signs of promise than a petrol station just down the road when your car is already on fumes.
United players all felt like their work at St. James Park was two points lost rather than a point gained. A win was desperately needed for the underperforming Red Devils against a poor Newcastle side who drew 0-0 at the beginning of the season at Old Trafford. This was not that match.
The football was a different brand. The pitch? Open and expansive. Rooney found the fountain of youth. Van Gaal found emotion on the bench no one in the Red half of Manchester has ever seen before. But the manager’s defensive frailties were exposed again in the harshest of ways. As many United fans quipped after the match, “I’d rather have 3-3 than 0-0 any day,” this loss still stung. Had Rooney and Lingard been even more clinical than they already were, United would have been 3 goals clear early in the second half. As it turned out, the chance fell to the much ostracized Fellaini to seal the three points. With the goal gaping his powerful header found the keepers grateful arms when it was easier to score. United took only 2 points from Newcastle in the 2015/16 season.
United’s owners, Executive Vice Chairman, and manager must now travel down the dark tunnel of brutal honesty and soul searching. Why were young defenders not purchased when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were a season or two away from leaving United? Was the plan for Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling to be the next world class defenders at the back for the famous Manchester United? If so, only Smalling has come close. Evans and Jones have massively underperformed leaving United’s player development and performance grading system in serious doubt.
Whatever the reason, United now must dip into the transfer market yet again. Promoting from youth while purchasing the best up and coming talent around used to be how things were done. Now United must spend big to cover the gaping holes left by failed planning and proper investment. No less than two quality defenders must be purchased. The names of Athletic Bilboa’s Aymeric Laporte and Everton’s John Stones come immediately into mind. Young, fast, strong, dynamic, and ready to take the next step – United should throw 45-50 million at each of their respective teams to ensure they end up in the Northwest of England.
After a couple of goal filled days in the Premier League in the second week of January United sit only 2 points outside of the top 4. This surely can be their only goal for the Premier League yet again. Louis Van Gaal’s failings in seeing the problems clearly developing with his squad through the early part of the season and making little to no changes in formation, tactics, and player selection are mainly at fault. Since Van Gaal’s first season in charge it’s pretty much always been a dreary sort of United performance each time they step onto the pitch. Van Gaal has them setup to defend without attack or attack without defense. There seems to be no middle ground.
Next up is a trip to Liverpool. They seem to possess many of the same issues under Jurgen Klopp that United do under their Iron Tulip, but with squad talent vastly favoring the Red Devils. Last season’s trip to Anfield gave us one of the more dominant United performances against our hated rivals – Juan Mata beautifully on the double that day. United may be looking to Liverpool hater, Wayne Rooney to lead them to victory. His resurgence has seem him score 4 goals in 3 matches in 2016 – more goals than in the last two months for the Evertonian. An on form Rooney coupled with an incapable defense could see United score some goals and ship some goals.
At this point, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen at Liverpool on Sunday. But one thing is for sure, with ground zero behind us there are few expectations with the United fans any longer. Three points could push us back into the top 4 while another draw, especially a loss, could see Louis Van Gaal shown the door at Old Trafford.