Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham felt like a new dawn for the Red Devils under Louis van Gaal.
The win meant they remain resident in the top four regardless of Liverpool’s result against Swansea and they are 11/20 to be there at the end of the campaign.
Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal must be negotiated for a reasonable return in order for that to happen.
However Van Gaal’s side will face them with a newfound assurance, having finally clicked against a Lilywhites outfit left punchdrunk by the full-time whistle.
As for what worked the oracle, it all can all be traced to a change of left back, bizarre as that sounds.
Van Gaal’s decision to give Daley Blind his first start of the campaign as a fullback was the subtle trigger for United’s embrace of the interchangeability at the heart of total football.
Moving the Dutch international out wide enabled Michael Carrick to return to the fold in defensive midfield.
It’s no secret the Reds have lost just once in 14 Carrick starts this term, but it wasn’t that the Englishman assumed total control of their destiny, despite shining on his return to the XI after a nine-game absence.
Ander Herrera, Blind and Phil Jones all had more touches of the ball and played a greater number of passes than the veteran midfielder against Tottenham.
The former was the captain of industry, assuming the playmaker role he had always been bought to fulfil with a fine 92.9% pass completion rate.
Herrera’s emergence allowed the United midfield a greater degree of balance, acting as a counterpoint to Carrick on the defensive end of the see-saw.
On the left-flank Blind, steeped in total football since his childhood at Ajax, added an extra dimension to the full-back brief staffed manfully by Ashley Young recently.
Freed from his responsibility for maintaining central-midfield decorum, the Oranje international was able to create endless overloads down the Tottenham right, exchanging passes with Carrick, Young and Fellaini inside of him.
What may have seemed a relatively banal change of personnel sparked off a chain reaction of the kind of free-form position-swapping attacking football United fans had been dreaming of since Van Gaal’s appointment.
It was this interchange, as well as some ruthless first-half finishing, which disposed of the Lilywhites, who were left chasing shadows with their pre-match marking notes torn to tatters.
Liverpool will have revenge on their minds having been drubbed 3-0 by a rather less fluent United at Old Trafford earlier this season.
However, landing odds of 6/5 about victory looks that much more difficult in the wake of their bitter rivals’ win over Tottenham.
Man Utd are 9/4 to land a Premier League double over the Merseyside club this coming Sunday, while a draw can be invested in at identical odds.
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