Louis van Gaal has had a pretty good start with Manchester United. In his first seven games he’s won three, drawn two and lost two, which has left United in fourth place.
After what was an abysmal start to the season (losing 1-2 to Swansea at Old Trafford) van Gaal’s men seem to be playing their best football since lifting the Premier League trophy in 2013.
However, a claim can be made to say that United really haven’t been tested (bar the match against Everton which they won 2-1).
In the next 5 weeks the 13 time Premier League Champions will go head to head, with 3 of last seasons top four.
After they go away to West Brom, Man Utd will host the runaway league leaders Chelsea. So far this season Chelsea have gained 19 points, from a possible 21 (2 points were dropped at the Etihad) and they don’t look like they’ll be losing matches anytime soon.
The gap in quality between the two English giants has been increasing for a few years, and now looks wider than ever. Nothing evinces this more than the fact Chelsea are contenders for the Champions League, whereas United are hoping to qualify for that same competition next year.
Chelsea arguably pose the biggest threat out of the three, but the fixture will be the only one played at Old Trafford. There’s no doubt that the ‘Theater of Dreams’ has lost it’s fear factor, but the 75,000 that will be there, are sure to intimidate the Chelsea faithful.
Diego Costa, Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar and co are sure to give United their biggest test of the season so far (maybe even all season). After scoring 21 goals and only conceding 7 (not to mention being the only undefeated team in the league) many may find it very difficult to see how Man Utd will stop this Chelsea steam train.
A week later, United travel to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City. City boasts a record of 4 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss so far this season. United’s record against City has been atrocious as of late, with the most recent result being a 0-3 defeat at Old Trafford preceded by a 4-1 humiliation at the Etihad. In the last six Manchester derbies in the Premier League, City have won 5 (scoring 16 in those victories) and United have recorded only a single victory in the 2-3 at the Etihad.
Again, the odds for a United win in this encounter are quite low. However, this is a derby game, the most unpredictable of all. Louis van Gaal will be relishing this match and will most certainly be looking for a result against the ‘noisy neighbors’. David Moyes went into the last two derbies in such a negative fashion, but van Gaal will most probably be expected to go with a much more tactical approach, perhaps a counter attacking set up. By no means are United favorites, but the prospect of a the red side of Manchester winning would almost be fairytale-esque, which is what the Premier League is all about.
Twenty days later and United travel to the capital to face Arsenal. The FA Cup champions haven’t beaten Manchester United since 1 May 2011 at the Emirates. Even during the infamous David Moyes era, United managed to record a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford and a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture against Arsenal. Neither team are at the peak of their powers and are both plagued with injuries. This match is probably the one of the three, where United will feel they can actually snatch three points.
These next three matches won’t decide where any of the teams finish in the table, but United will be looking to send a message of intent to the rest of the Football world. Nevertheless, the Arsenal game is probably the most important of the three, especially since Arsenal have held that fourth spot for a few years now. United will need to take as many points as possible from the teams around the 3rd and 4th spots, if they really want to get back in the UEFA Champions League (a competition they’ve won 3 times before). A win against Arsenal would be doing just that.