16/01/2015 11:40 GMT | Updated 18/03/2015 05:59 GMT

Why Manchester United Are Lucky to Be in the Top Four

​Manchester United have been far easier on the eyes this season, but they currently sit on 37 points after 21 games, exactly the same as this time last season when David Moyes was in charge. Just let that sink in for a moment.

37 points left United seventh at this stage last season, but they are 4th this time around, above the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Spurs. Unfortunately, depending on who you ask, the reason Louis van Gaal's side are in the top four is not that they have signed di Maria and Falcao, but that they have been lucky.

Let's start with Liverpool. When Luis Suarez left for Barcelona in the summer, many fans and players were happy to see the back of him, but Liverpool may have underestimated his influence. Some likened his departure to that of Gareth Bale when he moved from Spurs to Real Madrid, but most suggested that Brendan Rodgers had enough squad depth to fill the void.

How wrong they were. Liverpool are now eighth, sitting behind the likes of a rejuvenated West Ham and goals have been very hard to come by. Manchester United, more than anyone, will be grateful for Suarez's departure.

Arsenal have had another characteristically slow start to the campaign, but have worked their way up to fifth as a few of their injured stars are beginning to return.

The Gunners possess as many quality players as Manchester United, but suffer from a rather weak defence, much like the Red Devils, so will likely go head-to-head for 4th or 5th spot.

Everton have been dreadful this season, there is no denying that. No one expected it, but they lie 12th, above Aston Villa only on goal difference. Spurs also started poorly, but are beginning to find their feet after the most inconsistent 21 games in recent memory.

Manchester United owe their success to these four teams and their slow starts. On paper, their attack is terrifying and half of United's starting eleven look like a genuine title contending side, but they just aren't there yet. In fact, despite all his signings, van Gaal's side have scored one less than David Moyes' side.

Champions League qualification is the minimum expected of van Gaal and he is on course to meet that target. However, their loss against Southampton at the weekend means Rooney and Co have managed just one win in five and have Arsenal breathing down their necks, eyeing up their usual spot.

People are quick to criticise Manchester United and it is often justified, but the simple fact is that they are where they are because other sides have struggled in the first half of the campaign. It is not Louis van Gaal's fault, just as it was not David Moyes' fault, because the squad Sir Alex Ferguson left behind is inadequate. It is actually a miracle he won the league with this group of players.

United are not destined to fail for the rest of eternity and it will not take long for them to become the side they were under Ferguson, but they do need to sign at least two defenders, two midfielders, a left winger and perhaps a young striker. Okay, maybe it will take a while.

Ultimately, their current league position does not tell the whole story, but the poor form of others has allowed Manchester United a bit of a breathing room and this can only be a good thing.

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