While Chelsea and Manchester City slug it out at the top of the Premier League, Louis van Gaal’s Old Trafford revolution gathers ever more momentum in the red half of Manchester. The Dutchman endured a tricky start to his reign but seven wins in eight league games have put United hot on the heels of the pacesetters.
If the current United side can emulate the teams of Alex Ferguson who were renowned for a strong second half of the season, Van Gaal’s men could yet have their say in the destiny of the title. United visit Tottenham Hotspur in a lunchtime kickoff on Sunday as the games continue to flow thick and fast over the festive period.
“The signs have been good in recent weeks,” midfielder Michael Carrick told the club website (ManUtd.com). “We were bitterly disappointed not to win last week (at Aston Villa) but we beat Newcastle and now have two big away games. They will be a good test for us to see where we are at.”
After the trip to Spurs, United — seven points behind City and 10 adrift of Chelsea — are away at Stoke on New Year’s Day. “We’re continuing to look up and will continue to try to catch them (City and Chelsea),” Carrick said.
“We’re not satisfied with third — it’s obviously an improvement and we’re getting better, but we want to keep looking up.”
Seventh-placed Spurs have won three on the bounce with striker Harry Kane emerging as one of the stars of the season, his first-minute strike in the 2-1 victory over Leicester on Friday taking his tally to 15 in all competitions. “We’ve built up some momentum now with some wins,” he said.
“United have picked up form. It’s going to be a tough game but we are confident at the minute. We’re ready for it.”
Di Maria doubtful
Manchester United will await tests on winger Angel Di Maria to see if he has a chance of facing Tottenham Hotspur after the Argentine suffered a pelvic injury in training. Record signing Di Maria was injured on Wednesday and ruled out of Friday’s 3-1 home victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League. He had only just returned from a hamstring injury and played in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa last week.
“In the last training session he [Di Maria] stepped out of the warm up,” manager Louis van Gaal said. “It was a little bit amazing because he did everything very well but … now we have to wait and see for the analysis.”
There was better news on United’s other injured players, including Belgian midfielders Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini, as well as Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind. “All the injuries are coming back,” Van Gaal said.
“It is a little bit late for us because now we have to play a lot of games within one week but they are coming back and, within two weeks, I think a lot of players will be back. Januzaj is ill. A virus has approached a lot of players but for him it was too much. Also Fellaini … I think it is the Belgium virus! Will he be ready for Spurs? No, he is ill.”
Chelsea make the trip south to face a fourth-placed Southampton side who appear to have got over their blip following a flying start to the campaign. “We have found the belief again,” said Southampton manager Ronald Koeman after Saints followed up a 3-0 drubbing of Everton with a 3-1 success at Crystal Palace on Friday.