Manchester United’s chances of finishing in the Premier League top four took a major boost yesterday as the Old Trafford outfit put Tottenham to the sword 3-0.
Although the historic club have a number of tough fixtures against some of the division’s best teams coming up, starting with a trip to Anfield this weekend, Louis van Gaal’s side arguably put in their best performance of the season against Spurs.
The Dutch manager made a number of critical decisions regarding personnel in his starting XI that was so impressive yesterday, which will have a major bearing on the team that takes to the pitch to face Liverpool.
In light of his team selection, here are three decisions that Van Gaal got right…
The Spanish midfielder has found the going tough of late and has been by no means an automatic starter for the Red Devils.
Mata was deployed on the right of Van Gaal’s 4-1-4-1 formation yesterday, which is an unusual role for the ex-Chelsea man – but one he embraced wholeheartedly.
The talented playmaker’s presence on the park gave United an extra cutting edge in the final third and this was certainly to the benefit of main striker Wayne Rooney.
Despite Marouane Fellaini being the majority of people’s man-of-the-match, Mata put in an imperious display to remind his manager just how good he is.
His technique, vision and ability to pick a killer pass make him a match-winner and a player that deserves more time on the pitch at Old Trafford.
Experienced midfielder Carrick started in the designated holding role against his former club and again proved that he is one of the most under-rated players in English football.
United look like a much more slick and intelligent side with the former West Ham star in the boiler room, with the veteran dictating play and picking out his attacking team-mates with some sumptuous passing.
Unlike Tottenham, who struggled to deal with Fellaini’s presence between their midfield and defence, Carrick also nullified the presence of firstly Christian Eriksen, and then Moussa Dembele.
His presence also allowed the likes of Fellaini and Herrera to get forward.
It is clear that Carrick is a key component to United’s style of play, with an emphasis on getting the ball down and passing it due in part to his inclusion.
Blind was signed in the summer after star performances at the heart of Ajax’s midfield, but the Dutch star is quickly proving just how versatile he can be.
With Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo unavailable, the Netherlands international slotted into the United side at left-back and was one of the star performers.
Not for the first time this season, Blind played as a full-back or wing-back and offered defensive solidarity and an additional attacking threat with his delivery and range of passing in the opposition half.
Ashley Young could have played at left-back, as he has done at times this term, but utilising Blind in defence freed the ex-Aston Villa winger up to terrorise Spurs right-back Kyle Walker.
Although his best position is most likely in the boiler room, Blind showed that he has all the attributes to be a solid left-back and will certainly be in Van Gaal’s thoughts to retain the role ahead of the trip to Liverpool.