How faith in youngsters is finally paying off for Manchester United and Louis van Gaal
After a torrid couple of months for Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal, the promises made by the Dutch manager seem to be coming to life. After a confident victory in the 4th round of the F.A Cup at the iPro stadium against Derby (3-1) the players carried the same momentum.
They were able to build on it after a spectacular display of football against Mark Hughes’ Stoke City who are known for the physical nature of their gameplay. Van Gaal made few changes to the side that won against Derby, welcoming back and starting Michael Carrick in the Premier League and filled the right-back slot with the Italian Matteo Darmian who replaced Guillermo Varela at the iPro stadium.
Up-front Van Gaal opted to operate with Martial on the left-wing and Jesse Lingard who is starting to impress viewers and critics with his recent displays, on the right-wing. Juan Mata occupied the space behind the striker and played most of the game as an attacking midfielder as opposed to the most part of the season when Van Gaal preferred to operate with Mata on the right-wing. Rooney was the lone striker and by the looks of it, he seems to be enjoying it.
Right from the get-go the Red Army made their intentions clear who were immediately on the front-foot and already knocking on Stoke and Jack Butland’ door winning a corner in the 2nd minute of the game. This was unlike Manchester United of this season, and after constant pressure from the home side, Manchester United finally opened the scoring in the 14th minute.
The youngsters have been providing a gritty and an impressive performance
The first goal involved two of Manchester United’s youngsters. The cross and the finish were oozing class. Jesse Lingard opened the scoring with a magnificent diving header and was assisted by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson who produced one of the most delicious crosses that has been seen in Manchester United shirt this season.
The cross had Jack Butland rooted to his spot as the amount of pace and whip on the ball must have left him in two minds', whether to collect it or not. The ball whipped in by Borthwick-Jackson was the closest you can get to a perfect cross and a determined Jesse Lingard dived in for the finished which was greeted with a thunderous roar of relief, joy and excitement by the Manchester United faithful.
Borthwick-Jackson not only impressed with his offensive display but also proved to be solid at the back. Stoke City who are known for their physical game could not manipulate the youngster who did not allow himself to be bullied by Stoke City’s John Walters.
It is worth mentioning that the game took place on 2nd February which is also the birthday of young Borthwick-Jackson who turned 19 . The victory, an impressive display and a superb assist to Lingard might have been the perfect birthday gift Borthwick-Jackson could have asked for.
The second goal was beauty personified; it involved 12 touches after the corner-kick for Stoke. The goal was a result of a lightning quick counter-attack started near the edge of Manchester United’s penalty area.
This kind of determination and intensity is what has been missing in Van Gaal’s Manchester United but not anymore. Martial who has been Manchester United’s shining-boy for these past few weeks proved to be a handful yet again as the Stoke defenders were struggling to keep up with him and not able to find answers to Martial’s “run-at-the-defence” style of play.
Anthony Martial was voted as Man of The Match and rightfully so as the Frenchman proved to be a constant threat down the left-wing and scored a beauty as well as setting up a goal for his captain. The highlights of the game were, without a doubt, the performances of the youngsters Borthwick-Jackson, Lingard, Martial. Darmian who returned to full fitness and started the game was solid and did not stray from his duties and provided a gritty and an impressive performance.
Van Gaal who has been criticized for placing a lot of faith in his young players finally has something to show for his persistence and with his youngsters finally starting to play to the ability we know that they possess Manchester United’s title-race does not seem like ‘mission impossible'.
With Chelsea to face next in the Premier League, Van Gaal will hope that the team carries forward this same momentum, spirit to Stamford Bridge and the supporters and staff alike will be anxious to see what Van Gaal's’ youngsters have in store for us against a Chelsea side that seems to find their way to some extent under Guus Hiddink.