…we’re Man.United, four wins in a row. Since the derby defeat just a month ago, when things might have turned out differently if Smalling hadn’t been sent off, United have now won the last four games. Yes, they were expected to, considering who they were playing, but that’s what was expected at the start of the season, and things didn’t go so smoothly then.
First up this week were Hull, and as poor as they have been, the United players had to be alert to make sure they get a good win to keep the ball rolling. And roll it did, as Smalling, Rooney and Van Persie scored a goal each while De Gea and the defence kept another clean sheet. The only downside from this game was yet another injury, this time to Angel di Maria. At least Herrera was a more than able substitute as he fitted in nicely next to Fellaini and Mata. All-in-all, an excellent performance, probably the best United have played all season.
After that game, we were all looking forward to the visit of Mark Hughes’ Stoke, feeling that United could win again and consolidate fourth place in the table, though we knew that Stoke would be a much tougher opposition than Hull were. And so it proved to be, though United had enough chances to make the game a lot safer than it was by the end. Apart from Di Maria, Rooney sat this one out after having injured his knee in the weekend win. He was quite ably replaced by 19yr old James Wilson, though his absence and fight was missed. Marouane Fellaini continued his renaissance under Van Gaal by scoring the opening goal when he headed in an excellent cross from Herrera. Stoke equalised before half-time though, and United had to regroup for the second half. That they did, and when Mata (though Rojo would have you think otherwise) scored to put United back in the lead, it looked like there would only be one winner. Until injury time, when if it wasn’t for De Gea, and then Ashley Young, the game would have finished 2-2, and we’d be lamenting dropping points at home. But thankfully they didn’t, so we can be happy with the result, if not the performance.
Looking at both games together, it was a joy to see Rojo back as a centre-half, a position where a lot of us knew he’d be good at. I remember us saying when he joined that he’s the Van Gaal type of player that can fit into more than one position. Chris Smalling has also shown that he’s much better than he was against City, and can defend very well. Valencia and Young meanwhile filled in the wing backs positions excellently, and have shown that they are good enough for this level (if/when United are back in Europe, that will be another matter).
In midfield, Fellaini is starting to play as he did when at Everton, which is surprising to think why he wasn’t utilised like this last season, when the coaching staff knew him a lot more than those that are there now. As for Mata and Herrera, not much needs to be said about them as we know they’re very good footballers who can dictate a game and make sure United win the majority of their midfield battles. Up front, Van Persie seems to be getting back into the swing of things, though still far from his best, while Falcao is getting more minutes, so hopefully we’ll see the best of him in the weeks to come.
Looking at other fixtures, Chelsea failed to score for the first time this season when they drew 0-0 at Sunderland, then showed their power by beating Tottenham 3-0; City went to Southampton and were very convincing while getting a 3-0 win, then went one better when winning 4-1 at Sunderland; Arsenal won 1-0 at West Brom, then left it late to beat Southampton; L’pool ‘answered critics’ by beating Stoke and Leicester, with Steven Gerrard showing why he’s the best midfielder ever. EVER (Funny how after all the money they’ve spent, a 34yr old is still their best chance at making a difference).
In other news, Mario Balotelli once again showed how clever some footballers can be by posting a picture on social media for which he had to apologise after. Though it’s clear to see what he was trying to ‘prove’, there are much less controversial ways to do so. Like how about starting to earn his wages when he plays for L’pool? Personally I do like him as a footballer, but he needs to be doing a lot more on the pitch to start being liked by many others.
The Football League have banned Massimo Cellino from owning Leeds United. Why did they let him buy the club in the first-place? Everyone knew about his past, yet they found him to be ‘fit and proper’ to own a football club. If they think that he’ll just walk away from this, they have another thing coming as Cellino is appealing the decision. Either someone made a mistake when they let him get involved or they’re making a big mistake now.
Back to United, the club had their Christmas party the night after the Stoke win, and thankfully the players seem to have behaved themselves, so the media will have to look elsewhere for their fodder.
We now have to wait until Monday for United’s next game (8pm UK time), when they travel to Southampton for another tough fixture. With United winning both games in the past week and Southampton losing theirs, there’s only a point between the two in the table now. Hopefully, with Rooney declared fit and a few more players being available, we’ll see another win that will take us up to third place… COME ON UNITED!!!