In the past four weeks, Manchester United has been rolling, winning four straight games. The four-game winning streak could not come at a more critical point in the campaign as it put United in 4th place with 25 points, just one shy of third place, Southampton (26 points).
United's road on this streak has been marked by their in-game success and return to form, but dotted with injuries to key players. Against, Crystal Palace, United maintained impressive defensive shape and earned a 1-0 victory when Juan Mata scored as a substitute. In the international break that followed, United lost their holding midfielder and key player, Daley Blind to knee injury. The news of the injury delivered with just a few days until their clash with Arsenal.
In the match against Arsenal, United were dominated by a strong opposing midfield play. Arsenal held the majority of the possession and played the ball into dangerous areas requiring superb plays time after time by Manchester's last line of defense, David De Gea. He made two important saves on Arsenal skipper, Jack Wilshere, including a breakaway which found Wilshere exploiting the space between the two United center backs only to be rebuffed by yet another magnificent De Gea save. The game's first breakthrough came in the second half when Antonio Valencia dribbled the ball into Arsenal's 18 yard box and found space. Taking the shot himself, Valencia drove the ball low and hard, but right at Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs, who made a muck of the defensive play, actually sending the ball into his own net. United 1, Arsenal 0. With the lead in hand, United played a more defensive game, containing almost all of their players to their own defensive half. Arsenal continued to possess the majority of the ball and pushed their defensive line, dangerously forward. United would capitalize on another Arsenal defensive lapse. After a quick steal, Rooney and Di María played a quick one-two to spring Rooney on the breakaway. With Arsenal defenders at his back, Rooney performed a masterful chip past the goalkeeper to put United up 2 goals to none. A few minutes later, Rooney and Di María would get another breakaway chance, this time Rooney playing Di María through on the goalkeeper. He, would miss his chip, however, leaving United only 2 goals ahead, a lead that would soon be tested. Arsenal frontman, Olivier Giroud received a ball in the air, chested it down, and drove a strong shot past David De Gea to get Arsenal on the board, and put the game in more jeopardy. The goal would remain the last scored in the game, as United's defense saw them though to victory. The team's second two-game win streak.
United played Hull City next, competition they hoped to do extremely well against. After an early hamstring injury to Ángel Di María, United started by scoring the first of three goals in a rout. Chris Smalling scored on his second try from a United corner in the 16th minute. United 1, Hull 0. Rooney scored later from outside the box with a well struck shot. United 2, Hull 0. Robin Van Persie made good on his inclusion into the side and scored an absolute cracker, a goal that in the post-game press interview he admitted he desperately needed to find his form and continue to earn playing time. United 3, Hull 0. Towards the end of the match, United picked up another key injury. Rooney, contesting the ball deep in his offensive third, went shoulder to shoulder with a Hull City defender, who sent him wayward into the off-field scoreboard stanchion. Although, Rooney made nothing of the knock, he could not continue. The team's longest win streak of the year mired by two potentially devastating injuries.
With both Rooney and Di Maria injured, United faced Stoke City. Marouane Fellaini opened up scoring with a strong header off a cross. Stoke would equalize not long after on Steven N'Zonzi driven shot, which followed a deflection from a Chris Smalling tackle on Bojan. United 1, Stoke 1. Juan Mata would score the goal that captured the three points on a free kick that could have been disallowed if the linesman called Marcos Rojo offside. United 2, Stoke 1
United will hope to extend their winning streak to five games against third place contenders Southampton, Monday, December 8th. Their injury toll may be deciding factor in their success this week. Luke Shaw remains hurt with an ankle injury; his expected return is December 13th. Rafael continues to battle a groin injury; he is expected to return Deecember 8th, but not in time for the day's game. Phil Jones still recovers from his calf injury, expecting to return December 20th. Di María expects to be fit after the match with Southampton. Daley Blind continues rehabilitation after MCL knee ligament injury with no expected return date set. Jesse Lingard will return from his knee injury December 14th. With so many injuries it will be trying match. On the bright side, captain Wayne Rooney will be match fit in time for the match, as well as Radamel Falcao. The game will be aired on NBC Sports Network at 3:00pm EST.