Monday Manager: Talking Points

Juan Mata of Manchester United scores his second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on March 22, 2015 in Liverpool, England.

Every week we bring you our take on some of the big talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.

Mata Magic

Yesterday’s victory over Liverpool was vindication of a sort for Louis van Gaal and his Manchester United players. Skepticism has reigned at Old Trafford all season, as United have clumsily strung together results without ever producing the kind of football seen so often during the Ferguson era. No one epitomised this more the Juan Mata.

Since his £37 million move from Chelsea, the diminutive Spaniard has been accused of going missing in the biggest of games – and was even dropped for a spell – but he made a mockery of those suggestions yesterday. His second goal was a moment of sheer artistry – the kind that will go down in United folklore alongside David Beckham from the half way line, Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick and Ryan Giggs slaloming dribble and finish against Arsenal. He also worked diligently up and down the right wing to deny the likes of Raheem Sterling any space, something that he is not usually noted for.

United now are in a great position to claim a top four place. More importantly, there are clear signs of progress on the pitch to go with the obvious improvement in attitude and team spirit that the new boss has instilled. United fans can begin to believe that their spell in the wilderness could be short lived.

Davies heroics mask problems for Southampton

The life of a substitute goalkeeper is sometimes seen as the dream ticket. However, when reality hits and you are pressed into action it can be a thankless job, which makes Kelvin Davies performance at the weekend all the more remarkable.

Replacing the injured Fraser Forster in the early stages of Southampton’s 2-0 victory over Burnley, Davies shook off the combination of nerves and rust he must have been feeling to make several top class saves, and played a huge part in securing three points for his side. With Forster likely out for the rest of the season, Saints will need him to keep performing at a high level in order to fulfill their European ambitions.

Losing Forster is a big blow, and could have an unsettling impact on even a back-line as good as Southampton’s. Given their recent struggles in front of goal, any defensive frailties that could occur as a result of this injury will be magnified. The Saints cannot afford to start leaking goals at this stage of the season.

Chelsea’s ugly win a sign of Champions

In his new role as a pundit on Sky, Thierry Henry’s analysis has rarely lived up to either his own playing days or the hype that surrounded his arrival to the broadcaster. Yesterday, though, he oozed clarity and common sense when discussing Chelsea’s unconvincing victory over Hull.

Henry’s wider point was that big teams, and particularly ones that are likely title winners always find a way to get over the line, irrespective of how they are playing. We have now seen this several times from Chelsea. They are nowhere near the level of their early season form, and were run ragged in the first half by Steve Bruce’s relegation scrappers. That they came through their examination to eek out a crucial three points shows the resolve and determination they possess.

Come season’s end nobody will recall this as anything other than another three points on what seems an inevitable march to the title. It is a result you would have no faith in closest rivals Man City achieving and ultimately therein lies the difference between the two sides. The uglier the victories get for Jose Mourinho’s side, the clearer it becomes that they will be lifting the Premier League title in May.