Mata, Young & Fellaini epitomise Van Gaal's stunning Manchester United transformation

A number of players had faced questions over their Old Trafford futures in recent months but have all combined perfectly to move United towards the Champions League

GOALCOMMENT    By Greg Stobart at Old Trafford              Follow on Twitter
If there is one thing that sums up Manchester United’s transformation under Louis Van Gaal, it is the identity of their four goalscorers in this breathless derby victory. Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling have all faced significant questions over their futures in the last year - but on Sunday they were the golden boys of the Van Gaal revolution.

In a pre-season friendly here last summer, Fellaini was jeered off the pitch. He was the symbol of United’s disastrous season under David Moyes and the club tried to force him out. But when the Belgian was substituted seven minutes from time on Sunday, 75,000 supporters gave him a well-deserved standing ovation for a performance that encapsulated a United display full of intensity, desire and movement.

While summer arrivals like Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Marcos Rojo warm the bench, Van Gaal has come good on his promise to improve the players he inherited at Old Trafford. The Dutchman prides himself on his coaching skills but even he might have thought he had is work cut out with some of the players that struggled so badly under Moyes.

Young’s most memorable moments for United until this point have been related to diving or bird droppings falling in his mouth - but he tore City apart, providing two assists to add to his 14th minute equaliser.
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There will be a sense of frustration among some United fans that Van Gaal took so long to get it right. He spent months ignoring Mata and Ander Herrera while testing various formations that produced stodgy and unconvincing performances. Now, in the 4-3-3 that Van Gaal has preferred throughout his career, United are gearing up for a title challenge next season, with this victory all but confirming that they will return to the Champions League.

When City played United off the pitch in a 3-0 win here last March, Moyes invited derision by saying in his post-match interview that his team aspired to be like their bitter rivals. 

This game started in a similar manner to last year’s derby as City took an early lead when Sergio Aguero tapped in from close range in the eighth minute.

But United are so much stronger mentally now. They have claimed 13 points from a possible 18 against last year’s top four and this halted a run of four successive Manchester derby defeats in the Premier League.


It is a reflection of a manager who is a proven winner. Van Gaal has faced some deserved questions this season over some of his decisions, but no-one has ever tried to argue with a CV that includes titles in three different countries.

If recent victories against Tottenham and Liverpool were signs of Van Gaal’s fabled philosophy finally kicking in to gear, a crushing win in the Manchester derby is further proof that this is no false dawn.

Next week, they face champions-elect Chelsea with another chance to make a real statement. If they play with the same spirit and ferocity, Van Gaal’s men are capable of winning at Stamford Bridge.

United were helped by a shabby display from City in the second half as the champions' dreadful 2015 continues, but their intensity, speed and movement were too much for Manuel Pellegrini’s side to handle.

It was not the calm and controlled win that Louis Van Gaal most enjoys, but the kind of helter skelter derby day victory that Manchester United love to watch.

United now have 65 points, one more than they managed in the entirety of last season. It has been a far from perfect first term for Van Gaal, but this latest three points is the clearest sign yet that it has clicked into gear, and in some style.