London - Manchester United are finally beginning to look like their old selves at least in terms of results after a sluggish start to life under new coach Louis van Gaal.
They were indebted to keeper David de Gea as they survived some late scares to beat Stoke City 2-1 at home on Tuesday and complete a fourth consecutive win in the Premier League to cement their place in the top four.
There is still a long way to go before United can even contemplate a title challenge, but progress is being made after last season's dismal post-Alex Ferguson spiral into mediocrity.
Marouane Fellaini, an expensive misfit last season, scored United's opening goal - his second of the season - and Juan Mata's free kick earned the victory that put fourth-placed United on to 25 points from 14 games.
Even the absence of Wayne Rooney and Angel di Maria through injury did not disrupt United's resurgence and Van Gaal's usually gruff demeanour was replaced by something more jovial as he chatted after the game.
"I am very happy with the result, it's the fourth victory in a row which is also important and tomorrow is our Christmas party, and it's good we are having one."
But reverting to type, the Dutchman said he had been disappointed by the first half display.
"I am always more interested in our performance rather than the result, I'm a very crazy coach!" he said.
"I want a better performance. Against Hull City (who United beat 3-0 on Saturday) I liked our performance but today it could have been better."
United have a home game against third-placed Southampton on Monday and a fifth successive win would fuel the optimism that is slowly returning to the 20-times champions.
While Van Gaal said United could still challenge for the title "if we win every game", he was not getting carried away.
"I want to wait until after our next match (to assess things), but we're in a very good moment," he said.
"We've won four matches in a row, which is a very good achievement in the Premier League. I want to see what happens against Southampton - when we win a second consecutive away match, then we'll have great momentum."
England striker Rooney will have a scan on Wednesday after suffering knee and calf knocks against Hull, while Di Maria had not sustained a "heavy injury", according to Van Gaal.
"We are seeing a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel," he added.