Manchester United began 2015 with a misfire on New Year's Day, only managing one point from a 1-1 draw against Stoke. Manager Louis Van Gaal, after granting the players a day off on Christmas before their Boxing Day clash with Tottenham, held a training day on New Year's Eve to start the new year on a high note.
It started poorly early on, as Stoke cashed in an early attempt. Ryan Shawcross, a former United youth player, scored just two minutes into the match, placing a corner kick in the goal and putting Stoke ahead 1-0.
Twenty-four minutes later, Falcao drew United level. Wayne Rooney found Michael Carrick in the penalty area, who in turn headed the ball from the near post across the area to Falcao for a tap-in goal. The goal was Falcao's third goal of this year's campaign, hopefully making a case for him to stay after his loan deal finishes. He still has more to do to prove his value, but continuing to score goals will do well for him at the bargaining table come the end of the season.
Louis Van Gaal must be delighted with the result given another unwieldy United away performance. The defense was shoddy against Stoke on far too many occasions. For instance when Peter Crouch's header struck Chris Smalling's arm in the penalty box leaving the decision to Michael Oliver. Ultimately, the penalty shot was not given, and a massive setback was avoided. Despite their 10 match unbeaten run, still haven't reached the best form in Barclays Premier League matches with three dismal draws on the road.
United faced Yeovil Town in a FA Cup match on January 4th, shortly after their disappointing draw with Stoke. Van Gaal fielded a strong team, attempting to avoid an embarrassing loss to a much weaker team struggling in their own league. United played a strong first half and were by far the better side throughout. However, they were unable to net a goal until some second half heroics from Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera. Herrera hit a wonder strike from beyond the box into the top right corner, the decisive strike in a United 2-0 victory. Ángel Di María added the second goal in the dying minutes of the match to guarantee United's victory on the road against Yeovil.
Despite another draw, United supporters should remain optimistic for a finish in the top 4 of the table. Many of United's players returned from injury including Luke Shaw, Ángel Di María, Rafael, and even Daley Blind, Van Gaal joked at a recent press conference about the dilemma in having the element of choice for the starting eleven and substitutes and not being forced by the injury list. He can now focus on strengthening the side through the transfer market. Van Gaal already made a move this period with the signing of goalkeeper Victor Valdez. The signing has already caused a stir with many perceiving it as an insurance plan for a still unsigned David De Gea. Van Gaal, however, believes that De Gea will re-sign at the end of the year with no foreseen issues. Manchester United play a very important match on Sunday, January 11th against 4th place Southampton at home in Old Trafford. The match will be aired on NBC Sports Network at 11:00AM ET.