We are third in the table, and still in the FA Cup, March is a big month for United, we have 3 Premier League matches against – Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool and the FA Cup game against Arsenal.
Firstly – Newcastle, away. Never an easy place to go and always a good game! This game did have it all, and luckily for United we came away with 3 points, after a late late 89th minute goal from Ashley Young. Before the winning goal the game was quite end to end with Newcastle seemingly unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty early on against Chris Smalling. A talking point after the game game between a bust up between Cisse and Evans where oth players seemed to spit (disgusting) at each other, which later resulted in a 6 match ban each and in my opinion rightly so! Not much else to write home about in this game, I think we dominated it for the main with Newcastle having their fair share of chances. Angel Di Maria was disappointing and got substituted early on, and even though we were 80 mins without a goal, Van Gaal didn’t throw Falcao on, even though he was the only striking option on the bench, this bemused me somewhat but like I have said in previous posts, I think this is all a sign that the writing is on the wall for the unlucky striker. 3 points in the bag and we sit in fourth place (Arsenal’s win puts them back into third after they played their game in hand).
After a tricky game at Newcastle a nice little break and an easy fixutre would be nice, but not what we have – the FA Cup tie again Arsenal – its a knock-out.
We were knocked out, we didn’t play aswell as we did against them earlier on in the season, and looked a little bit lethargic, Arsenal took the lead but Rooney – playing up top scored a great header from a Di Maria cross to level the scores. Unfortunately it all went down hill for United from here, and for Di Maria personally. Firstly the Argentinian was booked for diving, then was carded again (very softly in my opinion) for tapping the ref on the shoulder or “pulling him back” if your an Arsenal fan and sent off. The sending off happened just after Welbeck put the Gunners in front and United really needed to press and attack. This really scuppered United as we couldn’t then press as we would like and made life easier for Arsenal. As this was a knockout and even though we were a man down, I thought we should go all out attack and lose 3/4 -1 but try rather than settle for a 2-1 loss, either way we would be going out, so when Van Gaal didn’t bring Falcao on from the bench there was many a United fan left perplexed and feeling as though there was nothing to lose if throwing him on up to with Rooney to see if anything could happen up there. This didn’t happen and United lost 2-1, out of the cup and United’s last chance of Silverware for the season gone. All in all it was a bang average performance by United and to be really honest the right team went through.
After the cup exit 2 big United fixtures were on the cards and we needed to reply and bounce back with some points! Bring on Tottenham at home.
All I can say on the Tottenham game was that it’s the best I have seen United play this season. The team played with pace and creativity and with Rooney upto and Fellanini playing high alongside him gave United options, which worked well as Fellaini open the scoring within 10 minutes. Mata was back in the side (for the suspended Di Maria) and had a great game in the middle, and to be honest would be very unlucky to lose his starting place if he continues in that fashion. Carrick gave United a 2nd early goal and really turned the screw on Tottenham who really didn’t know what hit them, it was nice to see Carrick back and playing an instrumental role in the middle alongside Herrera, it would be nice to see this little pairing develop together as I think it has the basis of a solid center midfield pairing. At the end of the first half Rooney ran onto a loose pass from Tottenham and slotted past Lloris to extend the lead to 3 and really put United in the driving seat. The second half was subdued somewhat compared to the first half, Tottenham consolidated and United found it harder to break them down, but the damage has already been done, a solid game and a great 3 points for United, who consolidated 4th place with this result. Next up – LIVERPOOL!
Liverpool away – United oldest and biggest rivalry, it doesn’t matter whether Liverpool or 4th in the table, 14th or in division 4, both teams will always turn up and put 110% into this fixture, it was set up to be a “good’un”. Liverpool sitting around 5th/6th and United 4th this was a massive game for both teams, as United could pull further away and give more breathing space, Liverpool could close the gap and really push for a Champions League spot.
The game certainly lived up to the billing (especially if you were a United fan)! After his top performance again Tottenham, Mata kept his place in the side and boy did he show up! Everything in the first half came through him and his link up with Valencia down the right. United tempo was again fast and fluid with Herrera working well in midfield, we controlled all the early possession and it was on 14 mins that the Spanish combo of Herrea and Mata combined to slot home the opener. The first half continued with United dominating possesion in the middle and starving Liverpool. Half-time came and both teams were still in it, although United would feel that they deserved another with the performance they put it. for Liverpool changes were needed after half time, and that change came with Steven Gerrard who was introduced at half time…Only to the sent of for a rash and reckless challenge on Herrera after 45 seconds of being on the pitch! This in theory would make life easier for United but infact Liverpool’s best spell of the game came after the sending off, they seemed to rally round each other and really put in some good football, but when Angel Di Maria was brought on as sub and guided a ball out to Mata who exquisitely volleyed it into the goal for United’s 2nd the pressure Liverpool applied had been dampened. Sturridge was brought on and scored past De Gea’s near post (one of only a handful of mistakes De Gea has made all season and is surely down for Player of the Year at the end of season awards!?) to bring the game down to a goal again and United seemed to feel this and lost a bit of shape. Luckily Daley Blind was brought down in the box and United awarded a penalty which would hopefully of sealed the win, shame for United the Rooney missed and the game remained 2-1. United managed to hold on and earn a well and fully deserved 3 points and one of the hardest away grounds to get any kind of return. The only sad end was Skrtel stamping on David De Gea at the end which was competently unnecessary and hopefully he will get sanctioned by the FA after the game.
So with 2 months (8 games) to go United have had quite a good patch this month, 9 points out of 9, drawing a decent points gap between 4th and 5th with the only blip this month being the cup loss. Given the tough fixtures we have had this month I feel more positive now than the last 2 months, fringe players have come in a really performed, Rooney is playing in a better position and De Gea keeps making vital saves, the only really negative is our centre backs still don’t fill me with any confidence and against the attacks of City and Chelsea I worry and Di Maria and Falcao are still struggling for form, personally I think Falcao will be hoping/looking for a move in the off season.