Van Gaal’s first few months at Old Trafford have certainly been tumultuous. After a few poor performances at the start of the season, the most embarrassing being the 4-0 loss to Milton Keynes Dons in the Capital One Cup, their performances have started to get better. Whilst they were poor against West Brom last Monday, there were positives to take from their game against Chelsea on Sunday.
Louis Van Gaal told us to judge him on his first three months at Manchester United, and then quickly retracted that phrase once three months were up. However, things have started to become more positive for United in that space of time. Whilst the defence still needs working on, something which surely Van Gaal and Ed Woodward will address in January with a couple of big signings, their attacking play has been some of the best to watch in the Premier League. For example, their first half performance against Chelsea was excellent, but they could not finish their chances against a brilliant Thibaut Courtois. They then let themselves down in the second half with a piece of slack defending from a Fabregas corner, but showed the desire to equalise late on, which was reminiscent of the days under Sir Alex Ferguson.
One of the reasons for this upward trend has of course been the new signings, but in particular Angel Di Maria. He brings an exciting twist to their attacks, as nobody knows what he will do next. He also provided the cross for United’s late goal on Sunday, and was very influential against West Brom to get them back into the game on two occasions. With three goals for the club in just six matches, if he carries on the fine form he is currently in then we can expect United to be scoring a lot of goals, and, in turn, winning a lot of games. Another important signing has been Daley Blind. Although he has been criticised for not getting forward enough when United are attacking, he scored an excellent goal against West Brom late on to earn a point, and he looks like he has been playing for United for years. An assured presence in midfield, over the course of the season the more creative players such as Juan Mata, Di Maria, and even Marouane Fellaini will surely thrive off him.
Van Gaal has also managed to get the best out of players that had poor seasons last year under David Moyes, such as Fellaini, who scored against West Brom, was involved in the late goal against Chelsea, and was generally a nuisance to defend against. Chris Smalling, a player whose days in the Manchester United squad, let alone first team or even England squad were questioned last season, put in a fine display against Chelsea. He has the right characteristics for a centre back, as he is big, fast and good with his feet. Sometimes his tactical awareness can let him down, but against Chelsea he made a few important tackles.
However Van Gaal’s first few months at United have not been all positive, and some would argue that the late goals against West Brom and Chelsea, whilst important, were to save draws and not get wins. But whichever way you look at it, it is impossible to deny that Manchester United are playing better, and with better performances, better results will come.