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Louis van Gaal hails his sides spirit during Chelsea draw; but more is needed!

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes his side “missed a big opportunity” to beat Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Netherlands striker Robin van Persie saved United blushes by scoring a goal in the fourth minute of injury time, which cancelled out Didier Drogba’s strike on the 53rd minute of the match, which was the only thing to separate the two sides. It was a relief that United found a late goal, which added some good feeling to the Old Trafford crowd and added that one ingredient that had been missing for the whole of last season – late goals. Fergie time was back!

Chelsea were battling hard to ensure United did not cancel out their goal, but United were in that frame of mind to not let a moment  where lack of concentration could cost them any points whatsoever. Van Gaal was delighted with his sides response but stated that be believed his side did not do all they could have done to ensure all three points remained at Old Trafford. Speaking to MUTV after the match on Sunday, van Gaal said:

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“I said to the players after the game that we could have won, but that counts for nothing in sport. We created a lot of chances, but we have to finish them. Chelsea took one at the start of the second half, and we were out of the game for 10 minutes. I’m very happy that we responded after that point.

“Once again, we turned a negative result into a positive one, like we did against West Brom. I’m happy with the spirit of the team, that’s the only benefit, because I feel that we could have won the game. Chelsea are currently the best team in the league, but there are many more games to be played. We still have a chance, but I still think we missed a big opportunity to beat them today.

“I predicted it [that Chelsea might score] at half-time, because we gave corner kicks away too easily. I said during the break that Chelsea could only score against us from a set piece, and I won’t have to say that anymore because the prediction came true.”

The Dutch manager also stressed the importance on a team performance, but showed delight with him compatriot Van Persie getting back on the score sheet. Many players on the pitch today played a superb game. Chris Smalling did his job in the centre of defence and assisted right-back Rafael da Silva at a time where a lapse on discipline could have cost the side. Luke Shaw who was given our Man of the Match in the scouting piece written after the game, also did well against tough opposition. Marina Fellaini, the man who saved United’s blushed against West Bromwich Albion on Monday put in a great performance and effectively kept Cesc Fàbregas out of the game and Angel Di Maria was all over the pitch spraying crosses and shots into the box with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois doing his all to spot his side from conceding a goal.

The team did lack something, that was pinpoint accuracy on the attack and with Wayne Rooney and hopefully Radamel Falcao due back for the match against Manchester City next Sunday, that could be something that causes devastation to the blue half of Manchester, which after last season, would be something very welcome. Speaking to MUTV about the performance of his side, Van Gaal said:

“I don’t want to talk about individual players. I’m very happy that he scored a goal because it was important for both him and the club. But I don’t like that he took off his shirt in celebration, because a yellow card isn’t good for us.”

United need to knuckle down now they have seemingly got a good result against the undefeated Chelsea. The point they earned kept them in eighth place, still a point behind Liverpool, Swansea City and Arsenal, three points behind West Ham United in fourth, four points behind third placed Manchester City, six points behind second placed Southampton, who have done a lot better than expected so far this season and still ten points behind Chelsea. The fact remains that a UEFA Champions League place is still possible and with Manchester City (A) and Crystal Palace (H) in their sights before the next international break and Arsenal (A) and Hull City (H) both before the end of November, there is a possibility that United could be in the top four before December, but that will mean beating two other teams that finished above United last season, which will be a good feeling.

The Christmas period will be another tough one for United with Stoke City (H), Southampton (A), Liverpool (H), Aston Villa (A), Newcastle United (H) and Tottenham Hotspur (A) all for a tasty month for United, which traditionally is the period where the Red Devils normally get started, but with a change in management and philosophy, that could also change. If United can remain in the top six, providing they are in the top six at the end of November, they will have done well heading into the New Year. This season is the turning point for United, and that needs to be the case in May when the true fate of Manchester United becomes known. UEFA Champions League football is a must and everyone knows that. It needs to become a reality rather than a possibility.

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