After limping out of Europe at the hands of Liverpool in woeful fashion on Thursday, the Dutchman’s side startled the footballing world with an imperious display at the Etihad.
Marcus Rashford‘s brilliantly taken goal after 16 minutes crowned a dominant first half display, which saw United go close a couple of times before having a legitimate penalty appeal turned down just before half time. They then battled and dug in to secure a vital win. Speaking after the game, van Gaal was keen to express how pleased he was at the result and performance.
“We played a very good first-half with a goal and also had more chances and we didn’t receive a lot of chances against us,” he said.
“In the second-half we had to start again, we started well but after that we had to fight till the end because we were tired from playing on Thursday.They played on Tuesday so that is two days more rest which is important.
“I am a very proud manager today. This victory was necessary, the gap was four points and now is one point, plus we are equal with West Ham which is important, what is possible? I can not say.”
From a season collapsing around them, United have made a surge towards salvation. Out of the title race, out of Europe, and most likely out of the FA Cup, van Gaal’s men needed to make a statement. And, buoyed by an ebullient front three of Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, they did just that in emphatic fashion.
How important is this win? Only time will tell. But it is impossible to put a cap on the seismic effect it will have on the dressing room; this was, after all, United’s last real opportunity to give their supporters some joy – an opportunity they duly took.