Manchester United is headed back to European competition in the UEFA Champions League.
Well, it’s not 100 percent certain at this time, but it’s almost as good as gold. United sit in fourth place in the Premiere League, leading fifth-place Liverpool by six points with two games left two go, meaning the two teams could end up tied on points at the end of the season. But United have a plus-25 goal differential to Liverpool’s plus-11, which would give the Red Devils the tiebreaker. So it would really take a crazy final two weeks for United to cough up the fourth and final spot for England in the Champions League.
And that is quite a success for a team that looked so bad and so poorly managed by David Moyes just a year ago. While there have been a couple of rough spots along the way — the latest being a three-match losing streak prior to a Saturday win over Crystal Palace — United have looked so much better this season, and have been rewarded with a much deserved return to the Champions League.
The biggest reason for the turnaround in Manchester comes at the top. It’s no secret that Moyes was an absolute terrible manager for the team. I know following a legend like Sir Alex Ferguson is difficult, but Moyes was flat out bad.
But Louis van Gaal, even with all of the jokes that are made about him, has come and revamped this squad and got it back on the road to competing for league titles year in and year out. He made big changes during the summer transfer window, bringing in Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Juan Mata among others. He’s also been constantly changing the lineup, half out of necessity with all of the injuries United suffered in the first half of the season and half to continually adjust to who’s hot on the team.
On the pitch, it’s been the United man himself Wayne Rooney who has primarily led the charge. Rooney has scored 12 goals and it feels like he’s reinvigorated as a Red Devil and providing a spark for the team. Mata has also played a very key role with nine goals this year, including two against Liverpool. And keeper David De Gea has really been on point with 91 saves and 10 shutouts, playing himself into transfer talk with Real Madrid in the upcoming transfer window.
Of course, United has still be inconsistent at times this season. The Red Devils will beat teams like Manchester City and Liverpool, but struggle to take care of lesser squads like Swansea City and West Brom. And there’s obviously no guarantee that this momentum continues into next season.
But what I’ve seen out of this squad over the course of the season is very positive for the future. Van Gaal has reversed the damage done by Moyes last year. And maybe, just maybe, this fourth-place finish this year turns into something much bigger this time next year.