Manchester United is Back in the Top 4


I once dated a girl who was a Manchester United fan.

Long story short, that girl is not my wife.

There are certain things in life that even love can’t overcome.

Sports are as much about hating teams as they are about loving teams.  I hate Manchester United.  I hated United long before I had chosen a Premier League team.  The entire reason I chose the team I did was because I refused to cheer for the Yankees or Lakers of English soccer.

As a United hater, I quite enjoyed last season.  Not only was it exciting down to the final day of the season, but United finished in 7th place in the EPL table.  It was wonderful.

This season, even with a new manager and cast of new players, United appeared to be headed down the same road.  I very much enjoyed the early season follies of Man U and smiled at the roller coaster of Louis van Gaal’s emotions.

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It was clear that United was struggling, but I knew in the back of my mind that at some point, Sleeping Beauty would awake and reclaim her EPL kingdom.  United had too many great  players to continue on their losing ways.

On Sunday, I saw a new United team.  The team that I knew we would see at some point.  I had hoped that it would be later than sooner, but here they are.

United played their first match without captain Wayne Rooney who began his suspension for an idiotic hacking at the legs of West Ham’s Stewart Downing, which resulting in a red card.  I worried that this suspension might be the best case scenario for the Red Devils who could now move Juan Mata into Rooney’s position and play Robin van Persie up front with Radamel Falcao.

Louis van Gaal has not returned to his 3-5-2 which he intended to play, but the formation of United on Sunday certainly appeared to be closer to the system he was all along hoping to play.

Angel Di Maria was incredible.  He was all over the pitch creating chances for himself and others.  I understand that Di Maria cost a pretty penny, but so far, he has been worth it.  Sunday was El Fideo’s fifth EPL match and so far he has assisted on three goals and scored three for himself.  But his goals and assists do not begin to describe his play.  He truly appears to be in a class of his own.    He has been superb and is impacting play all over the pitch.

But Di Maria was not the player of the match on Sunday.  That title belongs to David de Gea.  He saved a Leighton Baines penalty kick in first half stoppage time, the first shot from the spot Baines has missed in his EPL career, but that was not his best save of the day.

After Falcao had scored his first goal for United, giving them a 2-1 lead, Everton began an assault on Man U’s goal.  As time was running short on Everton’s hope of leaving Manchester with a point, the Toffees set up camp in United’s third of the pitch and continued to attack David de Gea until the whisle blew.

Two powerful shots by Leon Osman were turned away by de Gea, but his most magical moment of all came as time was about to expire.  A free kick into the box was pin-balled around before coming out to the foot of Bryan Oviedo.  For a second it appeared we would have a repeat of last week’s game tying goal from Phil Jagielka.

The ball was struck by Oviedo with great power as it riffled past defenders towards the top corner of the goal.  Out of nowhere the mitts of David de Gea slapped the ball away and Everton was denied.  The Red Devils walked away with all three points and rocketed up to fourth place in the table.

That’s right.  United, fourth place.  Yes, this team that everyone laughed at and criticized has moved themselves into a Champions League position.  And the season is still young.  No I don’t think they can overtake Chelsea.  I don’t think anyone can.  But if this team continues to grow together pretty soon my joy of United’s pain will turn 360 degrees into pain for all United imminent joy.