How Manchester United have fought their way back into the title race

Although Manchester United found themselves behind city rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League title odds, many expected the 20-time champions to make a real impact after a largely forgettable 2013/2014 season in which everything went wrong. David Moyes, who was seen as the perfect predecessor to Sir Alex Ferguson who retired after a glorious managerial career coveted with glory at Old Trafford, ultimately failed in his quest to continue United’s legacy and found the job too big for him, with the players also coming under criticism for performing well below their capabilities throughout the campaign.

The arrival of Louis Van Gaal reignited fresh hope and belief that Manchester United would be strong contenders once again, but even the hugely successful Dutchman could not manage to transform their fortunes on the pitch. An opening day defeat against Swansea was followed by hugely disappointing draws at Sunderland and Burnley, with a humiliating 4-0 loss at the MK Dons in the Capital One Cup sandwiched in-between. Despite a far from satisfactory start to the campaign, fans stuck behind Van Gaal who has spent a mind-blowing £150 million in transfers to bring a number of players to the club, including Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, and Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco. Their faith has been repaid as Manchester United have, slowly but surely, found their feet and are now in a much better position to continue their wonderful battle with Manchester City for the title

Newfound belief
It always takes time for new managers to integrate their own ideas and philosophies into a football club, but Manchester United has become a place where fans expect instant success. Moyes found it difficult to stamp his authority at the club, and many would argue that the players never bought into his ideas if the performances were anything to go by, but Van Gaal has made an instant impression on the squad. Although it has taken a while for Manchester United to find their feet in 2014/2015, five consecutive Premier League victories illustrates the radical transformation that has been made under Van Gaal; from a side that could not buy a win for love nor money, the Red Devils are now playing with the confidence and belief of a team that could still compete for the title. There is still a lot of room for improvement, particularly in defence where Manchester United have looked anything but strong this season, but the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie have found the spring in their step again and finally making Van Gaal’s new system work to good effect.

Success in the face of adversity
Beating Arsenal and Southampton should be considered a superb success for a club that has been decimated with injuries since the very first game of the season. The 2-1 victory at the Emirates was undoubtedly Manchester United’s best performance of the season; although Arsene Wenger’s side missed numerous opportunities at 0-0, clinical finishing and a wonderful defensive display resulted in a deserved three points for Van Gaal’s side against their fierce rivals. Manchester United are far from the finished article, but they could be forgiven for believing that their season could have been so much better if it were not for an unprecedented number of injuries. Van Gaal is currently without eight players – six of which are considered first-choice fixtures – and has resorted to promoting young defenders Tyler Blackett and Patrick McNair straight into the starting line-up. Chris Smalling is the latest defender to spend time on the sidelines and leave Van Gaal short of options at the back, while Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Rafael have endured injury-hit seasons. Even the likes of Di Maria, Blind and Wayne Rooney have spent time on the injury table, making Manchester United’s resurgence in form even more remarkable. Having a fully fit squad is likely to be top of Van Gaal’s Christmas list, as there is more than enough quality at his disposal to compete with Manchester City and Chelsea for the Premier League title.

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