It’s going to be almost impossible for Manchester United to win the Premier League this season, but the turnaround achieved by Louis van Gaal when compared to last season and even the team’s form until not too long ago, not to mention the ability and performance level, shows that sacking David Moyes was the right decision.
Van Gaal enjoyed support and faith from the front office Moyes never did. Supporters, outside Old Trafford, weren’t quite sure what Moyes was doing, pretty much from the get go. They’ve had their moments of questioning Van Gaal. But for all the criticisms and flaws in the Dutchman’s history and attitude, he knows his football, and his patience and flexibility is turning this season into a success.
Let us not forget that Van Gaal enjoyed a spending account like no one in the Premier League can afford without the owners stretching it very thin, and bending the rules of Financial Fair Play. Manchester United are one of the very few clubs in the world and the only one in the Premier League that can spend so much even in a season without Champions League football. As much as people loved to blame Alex Ferguson for the torched ground he left Moyes with, he deserves a lot of the credit for taking advantage of the financial boom in the early 1990’s. If you’re looking for the main difference between Manchester United and Liverpool 25 years later, it’s with that man, and that aspect.
But lets not confuse rivalries. Van Gaal’s latest crowning achievement came in the derby, beating Manchester City 4-2 and putting the club within a point of second place. After four consecutive losses in the derby and winning just once out of the last seven league derbies, this felt like the return of greatness for a club that isn’t used to even a season of being on the sidelines as far as the title race is concerned.
Manchester United have been third this season but they looked terrible during their very impressive stretch (results-wise) in November and December. The mini crisis of January and February seemed to take the team into the direction Van Gaal always wanted. Not just wins, but tactical flexibility and understanding from the unit comprised of Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera, which combines creativity, attacking mobility and the ability to pressure teams high and lock down the midfield.
There’s still one more match against Chelsea to be played and who knows, maybe it opens up the title race but it seems that while almost assuring Manchester United will be part of the Champions League again next season, the most important thing in United’s series of fantastic results is the return of hope and even arrogance to its enormous fan base, feeling like they’re moving back to where they belonged in for over two decades, and that there’s life after Ferguson.