Five things learned from Manchester United's season so far: Di Maria, Falcao & McNair feature

A miserable start has quickly turned into a promising one for Manchester United. Here are five conclusions from the club's early-season form...

You can buy class?

The old adage goes that you can't buy class. But, in Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, Manchester United seem to have done just that.

Since moving to Old Trafford, the South American duo have been in sublime form for Louis van Gaal's side, taking no time at all to settle into the Premier League. Should United achieve anything of value this season, there is no doubt that Di Maria will be at the forefront of it, with Falcao in on the act as well.

Top four is there for the taking

Right now, United are making a mockery of English football. After seven games, Van Gaal's men are fourth in the table - that's despite failing to find their first victory until their fourth game of the season and later surrendering a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 at Leicester City.

A run of three wins in four has seen the club rocket up the table, giving supporters one valuable lesson: if Van Gaal and his players are truly up for the challenge, they will have no problem reaching next season's Champions League.

The kids are alright

A key factor in Man United's last two victories has been the form and presence of 19-year-old academy product Paddy McNair. Out of nowhere, the centre-back has come in and performed ably - and, crucially, much better than those who got injured to allow him into the team.

McNair's form produces another valuable lesson: that thinking outside the box can reap rewards. Just because players are on high wages and have been at Old Trafford for years, performance levels are not guaranteed. The form of young Tyler Blackett offers similar evidence, while - on a separate note - David De Gea also upped his game in the win against Everton.

But still, the defending...

That said, Manchester United's defending overall so far this campaign has been poor. Arguably, the only reason Van Gaal's side are fourth is because there are so many bad defences in the top flight at this moment in time.

That doesn't excuse United's back four, though, with the likes of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and more so far badly underperforming. Exceptions to the trend are the aforementioned Blackett and McNair, as well as right-back Rafael.

First real test will reveal plenty

Taking all of the above into account, United's first real test this season will reveal more about their progress than any of their clashes so far. By 'real test,' something along the lines of a clash against league-leaders Chelsea or fierce rivals Manchester City and Arsenal is meant.

It is all well and good scraping by against bottom-half sides but Van Gaal's men may just get exposed badly against a top side. If they can keep improving and maintain momentum, United may just fare well. Play like they have done so far this term, though, and Jose Mourinho, Manuel Pellegrini and co will be rubbing their hands together just waiting for the three points.

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