Manchester United will be feeling pretty low after that result against Arsenal. The Gunners were the better side from the first to the last and if United have any designs on the title this year that has to be quickly rectified.
Arsenal have only usurped United on goal difference but United’s next two games are Everton away and then Manchester City at home. If United repeat their lacklustre start in those games they’ll find it difficult and could quickly be out of contention. You only have to look at Chelsea to see how a couple of bad results can turn a really good team into a struggling one.
United won’t struggle like Chelsea is but a little bit of hyperbole might give the team the jolt they need.
Before the match Van Gaal praised Arsenal as “technically and tactically the best team in the league” and it turned out to be quite the premonition. It’s a tactic used by many managers in the big games to cover themselves. Should they lose it’s a case of “well, I said they were good” and if they win it looks all the more impressive. Sadly for Van Gaal it was the former.
Christmas is looming and it is the festive period that usually gives us the clearest indicator of where teams will finish and who is challenging for the title. Manchester United have nine games between now and Christmas Day and will hope the results reflect their pre-Arsenal performances.
If United manage to be topping the table at Christmas then history suggests they will go on to win the title. It’s a mixed bag in general for the league with over half of Crimbo toppers missing out on the league but United have won the league 5 times out of 7 when topping the table at Christmas.
A win at Goodison will put United in a good place ahead of their City showdown and will be hoping to scalp their local rivals to set themselves up for the hectic festive schedule. If you fancy United or someone else to be top on Christmas day check out this Betsafe promotion where if you bet on a team being top on the 25th you’ll win bonuses every time they win between now and then.
The Premier League is not the only competition United has to worry about with an away trip to Moscow before the visit of Manchester City. And if you look at the subtext of recent comments by Louis Van Gaal then you might even believe that the Champions League is more of an aim for United than the league is this year.
Speaking to the press recently Van Gaal refused to rule out extending his contract but stated he couldn’t let his wife down after promising to take her to ‘paradise’ when his current contract expires at the end of next season commenting:
‘You never know so I cannot answer that question but I promised my wife to go with her to our paradise so it shall be very hard for me to deny that promise. I was 55 and I go to Bayern Munich and next year I am 65 and say I stay a year longer – it shall be very hard to my wife.’
Reading between the lines he has given himself the option to extend by a year and that could depend on his success this season and next. If he wins the title or the Champions League trophy he may well opt to leave on a high. And it seems Van Gaal believes the Champions League is a ‘realistic’ targetfor United and he hopes they can win it before his current deal expires.
United certainly has the quality to be fighting for top spot on Christmas day but you have to feel the momentum and confidence knock against Arsenal will have to be balanced with wins against Everton and City. Those games are hard enough without a trip to Moscow in the middle.
Manchester United is generally in a good place and one poor result won’t change that unless they let it affect them mentally. The international break has come at a good time and allows any lingering doubts or big match hangovers to be blown away.