Since Christmas, the future of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has seemingly rested in the balance. Under severe criticism from media, supporters and former players alike, the Dutchman’s methods have left the Red Devils far from the entertaining side they were once renowned for. However, despite constant speculation, United somehow string together a series of results when they’re most needed.
This weekend’s derby proved to be no exception, as United took the spoils over City in a 1-0 away victory. A goal from Marcus Rashford, fast making his name in English football, was enough to separate the two teams and alleviate the pressure, amid Spanish reports that Mourinho had signed an agreement to take over at Old Trafford. Coming just a few days after a humiliating exit in the Europa League to arch-rivals Liverpool, van Gaal’s men defied expectations of a heavy loss against an arguably stronger squad on paper.
Strangely enough, perhaps pundits should have anticipated a United victory, especially considering their form against the so-called ‘Big 6’. The team have taken 18 points from Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and City this season; more than any other team in the Premier League. Conversely, City have earned just 4 from the same fixtures. Indeed, it would appear that the Red Devils struggle more with lower table teams that are content to defend for the majority of the match.
There is still time for United to salvage a disappointing season, though they will have to overcome a difficult last 8 games in order to dethrone City from the final Champions League qualification spot. That’s assuming that West Ham don’t end an impressive campaign and surprise both Manchester clubs. The question that remains unanswered is whether it will be enough to keep van Gaal at Old Trafford.