Belfast Telegraph

Hit it and hope? Louis Van Gaal and Man United must do better than that

The Verdict

By Steven Beacom

Shall we just give Manchester City the Premier League title now?

We already know their players laugh all the way to the bank - new £55m signing Kevin de Bruyne is set to be paid a staggering £14m per season - and the way the current campaign is going they are going to laugh all the way to championship glory.

Manuel Pellegrini may be the least animated manager in the UK, but surely he will be smiling today after a weekend when virtually everything went his and City's way.

Liverpool aren't realistic title challengers, but their home defeat to West Ham will have pleased the blue half of Manchester.

Better still was the result from Stamford Bridge where struggling champions Chelsea lost 2-1 against Crystal Palace.

And yesterday Manchester United were beaten by the same score at Swansea.

Arsenal may have won at Newcastle on Saturday, but unless they buy a top class striker before the transfer window closes, only Arsene Wenger truly believes they can top the table come May.

All this while City cruised to their fourth league win out of four, beating Watford 2-0 with Raheem Sterling netting his first goal for the club following his big money summer move from Anfield.

Heading into the international break, City have 12 points, five more than Arsenal, United and Liverpool, and EIGHT more than Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

Of course there are 34 matches still to be played, but you can't help feeling at this stage that City are going to get stronger, especially with exciting Belgian talent de Bruyne joining the party.

How United could do with a player like him who can play wide or in the number 10 role, creating and scoring goals.

When the Red Devils were trailing in the final quarter of the game at the Liberty Stadium yesterday, manager Louis van Gaal decided the best way to mount a comeback was to go with the 'hit it and hope' option, bringing on Marouane Fellaini. Hardly the United way.

It worked for the Dutchman against Bruges in the Champions League at Old Trafford with Fellaini netting in injury time, but it never looked like working in Wales against a well drilled and confident Swansea outfit.

Once again Van Gaal's side lacked pace and penetration. Worse than that, there was no real purpose about them either.

Wayne Rooney may have scored a hat-trick in Belgium in midweek, but he was largely ineffective four days later. He wasn't alone. All over the pitch United players simply weren't sharp or strong enough.

Even after Juan Mata gave the visitors a second half lead, United never looked comfortable with Swansea deservedly hitting back through the classy Andre Ayew and powerful Bafetimbi Gomis to claim maximum points and move into the top four.

Garry Monk is doing a superb job for Swansea. The fans love him there.

The jury, though, remains out on Van Gaal at United.

His team's latest performance and result will have done little to ease doubts amongst the faithful.

Next up is Liverpool at Old Trafford when the internationals are over. Interesting game for all concerned.

Belfast Telegraph

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