So here we are – last four games of Van Gaals first season in charge of the reds – we need a top 4 finish as that is the goal from the start of the season, and given the investment in the squad and the players that had come in, including Herrera, Rojo, Di Maria, Falcao and Blind there was no reason for this not to happen.
As mentioned in previous blog posts the star names have not necessarily had the impact we had hoped but given the transition the team are in, only really De Gea, Mata and Herrea have stood out this season. Lets just get through May and assess at the end.
Our fixtures for May – West Brom at home, Crystal Palace away, Arsenal Home and finishing Hull away.
We started this month badly – West Brom at home. With the home team winning 1-0. Was there alot we could have done about it? I suppose we could of finished our chances and converted the missed penalty but apart from that West Brom well and truly “parked the bus” and although we dominated possession if you have 10 men behind the ball your going to struggle to score – and we did with only the penalty and a late Van Persie chance the real opportunities against an ‘organised’ West Brom. United must improve to secure this top 4 spot.
Away to Crystal Palace was the next game and United needed points, and points we got, 3 of them.
Although we didn’t make it easy for ourselves. In a first half with very little chances the only points to mention were injuries to both Luke Shaw (seems to have an issue with this at the moment and at his age – why?) and Wayne Rooney who hobbled off before the half time mark (although this didn’t look too serious, fingers crossed) plus United first goal – courtesy of a Young cross – a Palace hand ball and a calm Mata finish (who will probably be challenging Rooney as number one penalty taker given Rooney’s average record this season!).
Moving onto the 2nd half Palace came back into the came strong with Puncheon coming off the bench and injecting some life into the game – his deflected freekick off Blind gave De Gea no chance and the score was 1-1, this really did kick the home team into life. Luckily for United, Fellani who had been quite of late and playing higher up top due to the Rooney injury managed to get away from 3 defenders and nod home what would be the winner, barring a couple of stand-out point blank saves from the main man De Gea again. Final score 2-1 United, top 4 spot confirmed and one game to go. Lets finish off with a high at Old Trafford again West Brom.
Lets hope we pick up our game for the “biggie” of this year – a meeting against Arsenal at home..
Penultimate game of the season – home to Arsenal – a win here would secure the top 4 finish for the season.
The game was indeed a tight affair, but not for 60 minutes. United seemed to be coasting through the game with little in the way of chances for either team but certainly no alarm bells ringing for United’s defence. Another Herrera shot from the outside of the box put United ahead on 30 minutes, and I have to say that he threat from the edge of the box has really been something for United fans to be positive about this season, I am not comparing him to Paul Scholes by any stretch of the imagination but it could become Herrera signature strength, a bit like the ginger maestro himself!
United went into half time 1-0 up and deservedly so. The 2nd half started as the First half ended, with United seemingly in control. However to changes, changed the game – the introduction of Walcott for Arsenal (positive for them, not for us) and the unfortunate injury to De Gea (not good for us or him) meant the introduction of Victor Valdes who made in United First team debut in front of a home crowd (positive for him and nice for United fans to see the former Barcalona shot stopper walk out to a big cheers infront on the Old Trafford faithful in a United shirt). Walcott brought pace to Arsenal and all of a sudden they looked a threat – and it proved so, with Walcott firing in a cross only for Tyler Blackett to deflect an own goal past Valdes, nothing Valdes could do about it and a pretty nasty firts 10 minutes on debut. For the remainder of the game Arsenal were in full control and we were lucky to scape a point.
Luckily the whistle blew and it was a point a piece and although Arsenal have guaranteed a 3rd place finish United secure a top 4 finish (the goal set out at the start of the season) Woohooo.
So all that was needed now was a good end to what I believe has been a quite successful season, yes we could have done better in the cups and there are areas of the squad which need looking at but overall we have achieved what we hoped – so a good strong finish would be nice.
Not a good finish! Hull needing a win here to secure any hopes of survival played well, and United not being able to go up or down resulted in a dead rubber! 0-0 the full time score and there really isn’t anything of note to talk about, I suppose Fellaini who stupidly got sent off early in the second half meant we were a man down for 40 minutes and with the Hull pressure we did well to secure a point.
The whistle blew and although we knew before the game that we were secured a top 4 place it was a nice feeling to hear that whistle go and confirm everything.
I will write another post to round/up some up the highlights/low lights and predictions but for now – well done United….Goals….achieved and I am really looking forward to a couple months off and seeing how the off season pans out!