Do not be swayed by the bad pressers and clueless pundits.
The narrative was set before the first ball was kicked. Louis Van Gaal with his newly assembled cadre of ‘Gaalacticos’ were going to light up the league with exciting expansive football, and the lack of European commitments would mean United would have an advantage over more weary and stretched adversaries. This lazy prophecy from journos and pundits was woven from half baked assumptions and wishful thinking. The minute United started to stutter from their pre-conceived delusions of what it really takes to reconstruct a side as big and illustrious as United, the press had their knives out. Proclamations of United’s dire defensive line, impotent strike partnership, and mediocre middle, flew off the shelves like hot cakes at a baking fair.
The truth is that United have a stellar defensive record, currently second best team in the premiership. The bedding in of the new entrants has been slow and methodical, but Van Gaal has treated the multi-million pound new recruits with the utmost care - trying them in different positions, stretching them to discover their limits, and challenging them to sacrifice their self brilliance for greater team goals. It was always going to be a stop-start season, with successes and failure at different junctures. But we are beginning to see the point of the sculpture Van Gaal is building. He is not constructing a flash in the pan squad, rather he is building another solid house to last through the years just like the house Sir Alex built.
The pundits fancy Brendan Rodgers and his resurgent Liverpool team to dump United out of the top four. Anfield can prove to be a minefield no doubt. I believe it will be an aggressive game with a lot riding on the line for both teams European ambitions next year. United have started to look less than a team of individually talented strangers, the ease at which the devils dispatched an on-fire Spurs team gives us the best evidence that an emulsification has finally started to take place.
Look for Van Gaal to field a settled side, full with a bit of confidence and awareness of the gravity of this match day. It will be curious to see if the gaffer has permanently abandoned the desire to see all his new recruits in the side, a previous habit that had him shoehorning players into the starting eleven, resulting in too many disjointed performances and tedious overplaying. The biggest decision LVG faces ahead of the game is whether to tinker with the starting 11 by inserting, Angel Di Maria, United's beleaguered record signing.
I believe the result against Tottenham has trained the trainer-in-chief, LVG, showing him where the right balance is, and that he doesn’t need to alienate players by commanding them to operate in unfamiliar positions. The light bulb moment has come and gone, so I back United to break the unbeaten Liverpool run, and cement their climb towards the top of the table. Ultimately what distinguishes Van Gaal from Rodgers is rather than possessing the ability to talk or look pretty while winning, Van Gaal simply just knows how to win.