Van Gaal's team can be royally entertaining: Five things we learned from Newcastle 3 Manchester United 3
Wayne Rooney should never be written off, Louis van Gaal’s side can be fun to watch and other things we learned from Newcastle 3 Manchester United 3
By Editor Wayne Veysey
United can be fun to watch
At 2-2 and after letting slip a two-goal lead, United could have stuck or twist. With 20 minutes to go, Van Gaal chose to twist. He brought on Juan Mata for Ander Herrera, went with two up front and Rooney repaid his manager with a goal straight out of his scrapbook of magnificent strikes. Boring? Not tonight they weren’t. The last-gasp Paul Dummett equaliser took the gloss off United’s display but it will not be forgotten by supporters how much fun it was to watch their team. The visitors went on the offensive virtually from the start and, despite a few defensive wobbles, never let up in their desire to create scoring opportunities. Had Van Gaal’s side been more ruthless in front of goal – Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard wasted golden second-half chances – they would have won comfortably. More of the same, please.
The big man is back
Write the England talisman off at your peril. Rooney was outstanding, scoring twice and assisting once as he showed that he can still be a Premier League matchwinner in his 31st year. He warmed up with his second ice cool penalty in consecutive games before setting up Lingard for the second with the most delicious of reverse passes. But it was United’s third goal which demonstrated that Rooney still has the capacity to electrify. His thumping outside-of-the-box screamer was so well struck it could have seemingly lifted the goal out of the ground. It did not win the game but certainly deserved to.
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Wijnauldum thrives on the big stage
Newcastle haven’t had too many transfer successes in recent years but they emphatically got it right when they prised the Dutchman from PSV Eindhoven last summer. Georginio Wijnaldum has comfortably been the club’s most dangerous attacker this season and claimed his eighth league goal of the season with his superbly taken volley shortly before half-time. He has now scored against Chelsea, Liverpool and United this season. A big player for the big stage.
De Gea in line for third consecutive gong
For the past two seasons, David de Gea has been crowned the Manchester United fans’ player of the season. He is well on course to make it a hat-trick. The goalkeeper makes the brilliant look routine, particularly in one-on-ones, and he demonstrated the calibre of his positioning and reflexes when denying Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko with fabulous saves either side of half-time. Along with Chris Smalling, De Gea has been one of the few shining beacons in a generally forgettable season for United. The keeclosest rival for the United player of the year but the Spaniard is the man to beat.
Mata is no longer untouchable
While Manchester United’s other attacking players have been moved in and out of the team, as well as into a number of positions within it, Juan Mata has remained the great untouchable. The Spaniard had started all of United’s previous 20 Premier League matches and kept the right flank role under lock and key. Special Juan no longer. Dropped to the bench for this clash, or “rested” as Van Gaal claimed beforehand, after a series of insipid displays, United responded with their most eye-catching display of the season. It might be some time before Mata wins back his place.