Last Sunday’s FA Cup clash against League One’s Yeovil Town marked the end of the hectic and intense festive period. Louis Van Gaal was initially unhappy with the English set up and lack of a break, stating “I cannot prepare my team like I have to prepare,” he went on to say “We have to play within 48 hours. Uefa and Fifa (say) it’s forbidden to play within 48 hours, but, OK, it’s England”. Despite his initial qualms, Van Gaal appeared much happier and relieved this week, when he told reporters “we have survived this festive period”. Here is a look back at how they did in Manchester United’s festive review.
December 20th – Aston Villa 1 – 1 Manchester United
The first game of the Christmas period saw the end of Manchester United’s six game winning streak against a stubborn Aston Villa side. Despite dominating the early possession United failed to capitalise and fell behind when Christian Benteke gave Villa the lead in the 18th minute off the back of some poor Johnny Evans defending. Falcao levelled in the 53rd minute with his first goal since Otctober 4th. Even after Gabby Agbonlahor saw red and Villa went down to ten men United couldn’t find a way to seal a win at Villa Park.
December 26th – Manchester United 3 – 1 Newcastle
Both teams had strong starts to the game and both squandered chances. However United’s superior quality prevailed through a brilliant performance by captain Wayne Rooney, who picked up two goals in the 23rd and 36th minute before Robin Van Persie secured the three points with a third goal for Van Gaal’s side in the 53rd minute. Despite Newcastle’s concelation penalty three minutes from time United ran out the eventual winners with a very enjoyable and creative display from the forwards.
December 28th – Tottenham Hotspur 0 – 0 Manchester United
A fine display from Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris who prevented United from scoring on many occasions through some spectacular saves meant that neither side got the much needed win as both sides aspire to push up the table. Spurs who were far superior in the second half could also feel disappointed. It was a game that was an interesting tactical battle, but one that perhaps displayed the player’s fatigue to better effect than the quality of either squad.
January 1st – Stoke 1 – 1 Manchester United
A New Year’s Day encounter that meant Manchester United began 2015 in the same fashion that they closed out 2014 – with an away draw. Although they were lucky to survive the game with their ten game premier league unbeaten streak still intact as Stoke had the better of the chances. They went on to take the lead within two minutes of kick off through Ryan Shawcross’s cool finish from a Peter Crouch knock down. It was Falcao who, once again, supplied the equaliser for united from a 26th minute corner. Stoke were arguably the better team, the potters certainly created more chances despite United having control of possession and were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty.
January 4th – Yeovil Town 0 – 2 Manchester United
It was a result that, for many, was a foregone conclusion, however it was a strong display from Yeovil who frustrated Manchester United for large periods of the game and when Kieffer Moore found extensive amounts of time and room in the penalty box they could’ve caused an upset. However it took a moment of magic from Ander Herrera midway through the second half and a late goal for Angel Di Maria on his return from injury to ensure that the Red Devils made their way through to the next round of the cup.
Overall one has to agree with Louis Van Gaal, “survived” is the best way to summarise United’s festive displays. They did just enough to maintain their position in the top four and stay in third place. However with Chelsea and Manchester City dropping points it was a golden opportunity to gain some ground on the top two, and potentially, United could’ve found themselves sitting just three points behind the tied league leaders. Three consecutive away draws is poor and they were against teams that this Manchester United squad should be beating, it was disruptive to their fantastic recent form and is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed going into the second half of the season. However it could’ve been a lot worse and with several teams hot on their heels it was crucial that United secured the points that they did. There weren’t any awe-inspiring displays and it certainly won’t go down as a Christmas to remember but those at Old Trafford can be satisfied that they did just enough to sufficiently “survive” a period in their season that could’ve proved to be a potential pitfall.
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