United's talk of title challenge is premature at best
Louis van Gaal has been praised for the Reds' recent performances but plenty remains to be done inorder for them to return to top of league's table. As the Reds manager was just about to disappear into the canopy of the retractable tunnel, something caught his eyes. Bringing himself to an abrupt stop, he clamped the trademark, disconcerting glare onto Villa Park's big screen with Premier League scores rolling in. He had of course long known Man City result which was played few hours earlier with Chelsea inactive until Monday evening. Both were irrelevant. For van Gaal, what matters are fortunes of those below United, who might compete for the 2 places below elite top 2 which remains reality under van Gaal. The 1-1 draw with Aston Villa was hardly a catastrophe, just a missed opportunity but not a disaster. While he spoke vaguely of being involved in the title race, he surely knows that talk of this United team being realistic title contenders is fanciful. Indeed, Villa, galvanised by the official Lee Mason, might have smuggled away an unlikely victory.
It might actually be a decent point for the Reds in the context of their more achievable goal, a Champions League place. As van Gaal digested on all the luminous news that some unlikely rivals for top 4 status, for example West Ham had won, his file remained wedged under his arm. That's not just for show as there's plenty in it. The Dutchman still has wad of issues to deal on. Trying to be sure the board spend his transfer allowance wisely will be top of the stack in January and next summer. With Ed Woodward happy to fire dollar bills at United's lingering post-Ferguson problems, there is bound to be that odd dud investment and Radamel Falcao could yet turn out to be one such turkey. Though his equaliser was beautifully emphatic in shape and execution, there was little else of world-class standard. Another £44m has to be added onto a £6m loan fee if United want to keep Falcao permanently who has had 4 starts and 5 subs appearances but has yet to completely convince in any single game. Yes, his header was fantastic, scored on his last start.
Van Gaal did said he was 'pleased' with the Colombian at Villa Park but could clearly been pretty much displeased since the day his alice band landed at Old Trafford. The South American movement is predictable while his control and possession were pretty average. Falcao will have to show a lot more than one prodigious leap to convince van Gaal he is worth that extra mountain of money. That decision to dismiss Gabriel Agbonlahor seemed shoo-in for United to extend that winning run but whatever the Reds did, the rewards were scant. Van Gaal said after the game that United should have won because they were the better team, a refrain heard from United opponents recently. They were not better. As a link between defence and attack, Darren Fletcher was inadequate, Robin van Persie's revitalisation is far from complete and Jonny Evans can be bullied. No doubt, United were classier, probably that was what van Gaal meant, with Angel di Maria replacing van Persie emblematic of the extravagant attacking resources will win plenty more matches.
United might even go on another 6-game blemish-free streak but this contest demonstrated that the van Gaal's revolution will not advance quickly enough for the Old Trafford club to take part in chase for this season's league title. That particular chase remains a blue-horse race.