Manchester United's 2014/15 half-term report - returning to the summit?

Manchester United 3

After a season of disappointment last term under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal was given the task of improving the side and returning them to the Champions League.

Prediction at the start of the season

Many predicted that the title race would be a step too far for Manchester United, but that a third place finish was well within their reach, and they would certainly be competing for the Champions League places.

Performance so far

After a stuttering start to the campaign, it seems to have gathered pace, where a run of six consecutive games elevated the side into third place and they seem nailed on to return to Europe's premier competition after only one season's absence.

Manager rating

8/10: There are still some glaring deficiencies at Old Trafford such as their back line, but van Gaal has found a way for his side to get results. One could criticise the idea of resting so many players for the League Cup debacle against Milton Keynes Dons given the size of the squad, and the need for some players to get regular game time, but overall United fans are going to be very happy. 

Best game United have been involved in

It may be their low point, but in terms of entertainment United played their part in the 5-3 defeat to Leicester. Quality finishing and terrific individual efforts from their part. The poor defending helped make it more of a spectacle for the neutral viewers as well.

New signings (loan or otherwise)

None of the signings have perhaps had a solid impact, but they seem to have made small, positive contributions as they settle into life at Old Trafford.

Radamel Falcao has shown flashes of his quality - one only needs to look at how he has scored his goals so far but he has yet to show the consistent form that has earned him the reputation of a goal machine, and there have been question marks over his fitness. The jury is still out on the Colombian so far, but his talent has been there for all to see during his time at Porto and Atletico Madrid, and it's that form United fans need to see.

Even at a record fee of close to £60 million, Angel Di Maria's quality has been there to see more than any of the signings, just look at his goal against Leicester. He has great drive, technique and a wonderful football brain. One has to question Real Madrid's logic in wanting to offload the Argentine.

Marcos Rojo - Rojo has looked shaky as well as the rest of the United defence. That may well be down to a change in system and personnel, but there are one or two basic errors that can often recur in his game that need to eradicate. It will be interesting to see how he develops as injuries haven't helped his course, and not allowed him to get a consistent run in the side.

Daley Blind - Has provided some control in the midfield, especially in the absence of Michael Carrick but a knee injury seems to have prevented him from the chance to show what he can really do so far this season, but it has been a promising start from the Dutchman.

Ander Herrera - He was target by David Moyes, and he has got on the scoresheet a couple of times. It will take a while for him to adapt to the Premier League, but if given the time and space he can dictate proceedings. He may need to toughen up more to be a success.

Luke Shaw - A signing for the long term even if they have splashed the cash, and has made very little impact so far due to injury. But there is time for him to more than repay the outlay United have invested in his talents.

Most significant win of the season

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United. A lot of people will say their win over Liverpool, but the win at the Emirates Stadium was incredibly significant. It was their first win on the road this season, and provided the catalyst for a good run of form. It also showed they could go to the ground of one of the side towards the top of the table and win, and following on from last season it's huge for the side's belief.

Man United's low point so far

Milton Keynes Dons 4-0 Manchester United. One opportunity to win a trophy was quickly closed off as MK Dons thumped United's much changed side in August to dump them out of the League Cup at the second round stage in what was an alarming display. United have recovered well since.

Strengthening in January

Central defence is a must for United, as well as midfield enforcer, but Louis van Gaal is likely to wait until the summer before he does any transfer business.

The rest of the season

One would think they would go from strength to strength, and their performance level will improve under their perfectionist manager. Surely a return to the Champions League awaits?

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