For the first time in a long time, Manchester United fans are chomping at the bit to get back to top flight action and see their team play after finally getting back into the Champions League places following a victory over Everton.
As promised to the Old Trafford faithful, the first three months under new manager Louis van Gaal were hard – so hard at times that MK Dons looked an insurmountable challenge – but three months is still better than the three years of hardship they were set to suffer had David Moyes stayed.
To blame Moyes for the entire decline of United is wrong and that is now commonly acknowledged, with the club having far more problems and weak spots in their team than Moyes was culpable for – although the blame for the purchase of big bird Marouane Fellaini is firmly laid at Moyes’ door and so it should be.
That aside, last season it was clear wholesale changes were needed at United and luckily for the 20 times Premier League winners, Louis van Gaal decided he was willing to be the man who took them on.
The Dutchman has pulled no punches, and has been critical of his team at times – although with some of the defending, had he not been he would have been dragged off by the men in white coats and asked just where he and Arsene Wenger purchased those tablets that caused such powerful delusions – and more vitally, he identified straight away that serious changes to personnel needed to be made.
God knows how Anderson is still at the club with the Manchester fast food economy surely able to take the hit caused by the player leaving the city – but Nani and fan favourite (opposition fans that is ) Tom Cleverley were shown the door.
In came world class talents such as Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, both of whom have made a huge impact, and perhaps even more vitally in the long term, the likes of Daley Blind and Ander Herrera, who can give the United midfield what they have been missing for so long.
Despite these buys, United struggled once again and were called a club in crisis – yet now heading into a crucial part of the season, they sit in fourth place in the league, ahead of both Arsenal and Liverpool, albeit marginally.
Van Gaal had a tough start to life in England – not fixture wise obviously, more like results wise – but he has managed to do what Wenger and Rodgers did not this summer.
He identified the issues in the squad, the weaknesses, and he brought in a couple of very special players to boot.
Now not for a second is this forgetting the defence United currently have – or lack of it. Quite frankly, at times it would probably be better if they were not there at all such is the utter ineptitude of the positioning, timing and general awareness in the box. They do not have it. At least absent, they cannot give things away for free, the attackers would have to at least create something of note.
Liverpool and Arsenal fans are quick to point to the Red Devils’ defence and whomever United’s opposition are that match would obviously look to exploit it. One can only imagine what Jose Mourinho’s free scoring Chelsea side will do in just over a week’s time when visiting Old Trafford, but anyone who does not think Van Gaal will buy at least one if not two centre backs in January is on a par with Nicklas Bendtner’s grip on reality.
Currently, United are heads and shoulders above Arsenal in terms of their forward players and the same can be said when looking at Liverpool. When fit, their midfield is not too shabby and just one January addition would make a huge difference, meaning there is little or nothing to chose between United, Liverpool and Arsenal in that department either. Bring in Vidal, keep Herrera and Blind fit and drop Rooney back to a number ten and they actually might just edge it.
Defensively, United are obviously lacking, but as are both their top four rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.
It is safe to say Arsene Wenger will not be shelling out on anyone of note this January, more like watch his side be linked with top class names who end up elsewhere, but Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool might just buy a defender or two.
At the minute, the race for the top four is becoming more and more intriguing. It is fair to say that Chelsea and Manchester City have their own title battle going on, with United, Arsenal and Liverpool all more concerned about getting Champions League football, with anything else being a bonus and that is fair enough considering the extra money up for grabs this season with the BT Sport deal coming into play from the summer.
United fans will tell you they only need two players – a defender and a midfielder – and they will finish fourth, maybe even third. Afterall, they only get better after Christmas.
Arsenal fans will tell you they always finish fourth and this season will be no different.
Liverpool fans, well they were really successful in the 80s, so why are we even talking about now?
Manchester United fans. Do you think you can pip Arsenal to fourth? Can you actually go one better and finish third? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.