Ashley Young
Young integral to United's renaissance. Getty

Redemption has been a popular word around the red half of Manchester today. It's something that can be applied to a clutch of players to have enjoyed a reversal in fortunes, and Louis van Gaal himself, but it seems most appropriate when discussing the man many expected to have been first on the outgoing transfer list last summer.

Ashley Young's future was justifiably uncertain when the Dutchman arrived. Bright performances during the club's preseason tour of the US in a handful of different positions suggested the new boss might have some role in mind for the 29-year-old, but nothing worth getting excited over, it seemed.

And when Angel di Maria arrived at Old Trafford to herald the start of the Gaalactico era, the former Aston Villa winger quickly became the club's forgotten man. At the time, nobody minded at all.

But it has been the £59.7m signing who has become the peripheral figure, confined to the shadow of Young. A statement like that nine months ago would have likely seen you advised to seek urgent medical help.

But even the Argentine can have little argument at this moment in time. And as United blitzed Manchester City on Sunday - the first incident of which since the Blue Moon started to rise under Sheikh Mansour's millions - it was the once-ostracised winger who provided the afternoon's stand out performance.

United's opener was a reward for his hunger and determination, attributes we have seen in abundance this season. In assisting the second, his combination with Daley Blind – marked by a sublime backheeled nutmeg through the legs of Pablo Zabaleta – showed the quality that deserted him last season is still alive and kicking. In teeing up Chris Smalling for his side's fourth with a precise free kick, he completed a thoroughly decent day at the office.

Perhaps the most striking facet of Young's revival is the simplicity behind it. "I have just listened to what the manager said and I wanted to repay him," Young told the Sky Sports cameras when quizzed on the reasons behind his form.

It is an outlook that has been shared by another to have rescued his United career in marvellous circumstances. Marouane Fellaini, who revealed a similar conversation with his manager last month, was singled out for derision in previous installments of this fixture.

You will recall the game in March of last year when the apex of United's woes was exposed as City cruised to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford. The only noteworthy point of Fellaini's performance that evening was an inexplicable elbow on Pablo Zabaleta that should have seen the Belgian walk.

It was a different story on Sunday as the 27-year-old again tormented the opposition in his unorthodox number 10 role, one that no Premier League manager is yet to really figure out. The sight of a flagging Yaya Toure aimlessly failing to deal with his presence further underlined just how effective the Belgian can be in the right hands, which City learned to their detriment when he nodded in his side's second and his sixth of the season.

And while the careers of so many in sky blue shirts looked as if they were grinding to a halt, Van Gaal's army of rejuvenated soldiers continued on their upward trajectory. Another, Chris Smalling, mocked for his unfathomable red card in the first Manchester derby of the season back in November, provided another commanding performance at the heart of defence, helping himself to the goal that erased the memories of his nightmare at the Etihad Stadium in the autumn.

A question that now faces United fans is; what is the best way of preserving this turnaround? The balance Van Gaal spent most of the season desperately searching for is now firmly in place. This current incarnation of United has comfortably swatted away the challenges of Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Saturday's trip to Stamford Bridge will provide the final test of what this side can do. Should the renaissance continue against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea machine, a United squad that was tipped for another overhaul just a few months ago may only need a select number of additions in the summer transfer window to ensure the Van Gaal revolution reaches another level next season.