With West Ham dropping points against Chelsea this weekend, Manchester United’s victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium proved to be an incredibly important result in their pursuit of Champions’ League football for next season.
The three points now puts the Reds level on points with West Ham, who are still ahead in fifth on goal difference, whilst City are now just one point in front of both United and the Hammers.
On that evidence, Louis van Gaal’s side are still very much in the race to finish fourth this season after that had seemed like it could be out of reach just a few weeks ago.
Only two weeks ago United were beaten away from home by a resilient West Brom side, although they were helped by Juan Mata’s early dismissal, but that defeat left City three points ahead of the Reds having played a game less.
But with the Blues losing that game in hand and failing again when facing United on Sunday, the possibility of finishing fourth is now real once again.
However, whilst this result leaves the Reds in an encouraging position with eight Premier League matches of the season remaining, United will now be tasked with ensuring it does not become yet another false dawn in an inconsistent campaign.
Whilst United would have fancied their chances against an equally inconsistent Manchester City side for this game, there wasn’t much hope of getting a result amongst supporters given the Reds’ poor recent away record.
United hadn’t triumphed on the road in the Premier League since Wayne Rooney’s winner at Anfield in January, a result that was also labelled as a potentially confidence building result in similar circumstances after the game.
That win took United just two points behind then fourth placed Tottenham, but the side did not make the most of their success as they lost at home to Southampton less than a week later.
Therefore, whilst this result leaves United in a promising position, Louis van Gaal’s men must be doubly determined to build on that and improve even further, rather than see it prove relatively worthless in a few weeks’ time.
This was a great performance from United, yielding a deserved win that will surely be treasured for years to come for academy product Marcus Rashford’s winning goal. But here’s to hoping it’s more than just a good result, and instead the start of a run of results which will take United into next season’s Champions’ League.