The season, so far
If one were to ask Louis van Gaal about it, all is well at Manchester United. In spite of an embarrassing exit to Championship team Middlesborough in the Capital One Cup, United are two points from the top of the Premier League and top of their Champions League group. However, the occasional booing at Old Trafford and the ever-increasing chants of “attack, attack, attack,” or “We’re Man United, we want to attack,” are indicative. All is not well in the minds of United fans.
From a stylistic perspective, impatient fans demand flair and panache in addition to the results that Van Gaal is providing; however, United is currently bottom in the league on the list of chances created. Given the array of attacking talent in the squad, that statistic is a quantitative confirmation of the qualitative observations of many, that United are boring to watch.
The road ahead
Luckily for United, the schedule through Christmas is quite complementary. United play nine games between now and the end of the year. In the league, United plays struggling Watford, possibly a Jamie Vardy-less Leicester City, in-form West Ham, injury-ravaged Bournemouth, plucky Norwich City, unpredictable Stoke City and finally sub-par Chelsea. These are all games that Van Gaal’s side should be expected to win. Moreover, if United beats PSV Eindhoven in their final Champions League group stage home game on Nov. 25, it should be enough to send United through to the competition’s knockout stages.
Given that City and Arsenal are yet to play each other, and given United’s favorable fixture list, a scenario where United are top of the league on Jan. 1 is feasible. However, this United supporter does not think United will be able to capitalize on the fixture list as anticipated. There are a few key reasons for this.
Firstly, we have injury issues at the fullback position. Luke Shaw’s unfortunate injury was further compounded by Antonio Valencia’s recent foot operation. This leaves us without our first choice fullbacks. Out-of-form Matteo Darmian and erratic Marcus Rojo will have to share the load of multiple games with auxiliary fullbacks Ashley Young and Phil Jones. While Daley Blind is a left back by trade, he has been preferred at center back and central midfield under Van Gaal. Youngsters Alex Tuanzabe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson may also be brought in to handle the load.