1) Memphis fights back
Having come under fire from the media, fans and coaches recently, injuries to many of our attacking players meant Memphis had a chance to reclaim a starting spot and it took just 10 minutes for him to take that chance, a great finish from a fantastic cross by Herrera. His celebration showed a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, he was under immense pressure going into the game, not only because of the criticism he had taken but also because he had to bear most of the burden in attack with Rooney and Martial being absent. It showed he had great character and the mental strength that Di Maria seemingly lacked to fight back. Playing in a front 2 with Lingard for the first time, he was named man of the match and Van Gaal later remarked that this is perhaps his best position. When Rooney and Martial return, it’ll be interesting to see if Memphis keeps his place as striker with one of the other 2 playing wide. Rooney and Martial have both played on the left for their national teams recently and one could continue there for club too.
2) Defensive record ends
642 minutes without conceding a goal; the last we conceded was a rebound from a penalty in Moscow and here against Watford we conceded from the spot. But for the very poor first 25 minutes at Arsenal, we’ve been defensively excellent for most of the season. Many will point to De Gea as being the main reason for this and that wouldn’t be a bad call but the rest of the team have played their part too, Smalling in particular has been as big part of this. Smalling has really come to the fore in the past 12 months after looking like his United days were numbered in 2014. With Rooney and Carrick out, he took the captain’s armband again and looks the main contender to take over from Rooney on a permanent basis in the future.
3) Lingard a role model for academy hopefuls
At 22 years old, 23 next month, Jesse Lingard has had to be patient for his chance to become a regular starter for the first team. At the beginning of last season, he started the first game of the season against Swansea but only managed 24 minutes after picking up a serious injury which kept him out for the first half of the season, a loan move to Derby then put pay to another chance. During this summer’s pre-season tour he was told by Van Gaal to stay at the club instead of going on loan again and it seems to be a decision that is paying off for both. With 4 other academy players on the bench in McNair, Goss, Pereira and Rashford, Lingard’s late emergence in the first team will hopefully be a lesson to these 4 and others that patience pays off if they want to make it at United. While he should have scored to make it 2-0 before Watford equalised, Lingard still had a good game, making intelligent runs and looking confident when on the ball. Van Gaal likes an intelligent footballer and in Lingard he has one.
4) De Gea saves United again
Summer transfer deadline day 2015, it very much looked like De Gea would indeed be off to Real Madrid, the move fell through and De Gea ended up signing a new deal at United, something that could prove to be the difference at the end of the season, if United’s attack can truly start firing. He was unable to save the penalty but saved some really good chances from Watford although some were straight at him. While the defence is performing very well this season, when the opposition do manage to get a chance, they tend to find De Gea in their way. When Arsenal signed Cech in the summer, many people said he was worth an extra 10 points to them, while this may be true, De Gea is worth an extra 20 to us.
5) Never say die
It’s been a while since we’ve scored a last minute winner in the league, after the game I had a think about when the last time was, I doubt this was the last time but I instantly remembered a similar game away at Norwich in 2012 when we scored early through Scholes and after a late equaliser by Norwich, Giggs scored late on to win it. Under Van Gaal I can remember a couple of occasions where we’ve snatched a draw late on but I don’t recall a win and this really felt like a step forward for Van Gaal and this team. The next task is to maintain that and not take a step backwards like we have tended to do, next up is PSV with a chance to qualify for the next round of the Champions League and then a trip to league leaders Leicester. 2 wins would be huge.