With 15 games remaining in the current EPL season, Manchester United are sitting third. It is by no means a comfortable spot, with Southampton and Arsenal just a point behind, Tottenham three, and seventh-placed Liverpool just five points adrift. Realistically speaking, the race for the remaining two Champions League spots is wide open.
As the weeks roll by, many questions will be asked of Louis Van Gaal and his ‘Gaalacticos’. Do they have the hunger? Can they stay in the fight? Will more points be dropped? Will Van Gaal’s philosophy see United grab a Champions League qualification spot?
While the 3-1 victory over bottom-placed Leicester and the 3-0 win over League Two’s Cambridge United weren’t the classiest of victories, United showed flair and a renewed hunger for goals. What United probably lacked was that killer instinct – that desire to knock the proverbial nail into the coffin, and then knock in a few more just for good measure.
The Red Devils don’t seem to be striking fear into opposition hearts just yet, but managers seem to think our boys are getting stronger as the season wears down. Just ask Sam Allardyce. The Hammers boss is wary of United’s strike force, with Falcao, van Persie and young James Wilson determined to get their names on the score sheet more often, and Fellaini, Mata and Herrera also showing their striking touches occasionally. Compounded with West Ham’s injury woes, this should safely be three points in the bag.
Relegation-threatened Burnley – who frustrated United with a goalless draw at Turf Moor – will be looking to create an upset at Old Trafford in the mid-week match to keep their Premier League hopes alive. The Clarets will be taking their chances to put the ball past De Gea’s safe hands, and United should look forward to exploiting their gaps.
The FA Cup fifth-round game against Preston on 17 February that’s expected to go United’s way should provide enough morale boost before a run of tricky ties versus Swansea (L*), Sunderland (D*), Newcastle (W*), Spurs (D*) and Liverpool (W*).
There is talk that the team is finally coming to grips with Van Gaal’s style of play. Whatever that may be – the match-winning 4-4-2, the dreaded 3-5-2, or even the bewildering 4-1-4-1 – there is belief that Rooney and the boys are settling into their positions.
With four months remaining in the season, we want every game to be a convincing victory. Expecting the EPL trophy may be a stretch, but third – or even a second – is within reach. Van Gaal has raised hopes of United bringing home the FA Cup this season. With all this, we, the United faithful, believe the turnaround has begun.
* L = Loss, D = Draw, W = Win, denotes result versus team in the first half of the season