What now for the embattled van Gaal?
He could be proud that, at last, his players appeared a tight, determined unit. It made their earlier run of four defeats all the more puzzling.
It is this yin and yang of the Dutchman that Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, and the owners, the Glazers, must decipher to decide if the 64-year-old is worth having.
First-half display kept the home fans on side
The team delivered, particularly in the first half, a bright display that was the best from United in a long time - which the fans applauded.
If the club's executives were looking for signs the players can again perform for van Gaal, there was enough evidence there. The question now is: Can they keep it up to put a string of convincing results together?
Mourinho's player management may be the x-factor required
The way United responded against his old team to the threat of losing a fifth straight game for the first time in 79 years suggests motivation is what has been missing. Thus if Jose Mourinho were to replace van Gaal, he might ensure a bunch of highly talented footballers could rediscover their mojo and the habit of winning silverware that has been lost since Alex Ferguson retired.
Is a quick fix possible for United in the January transfer window?
Whoever is manager come the January transfer window's close will be a happy incumbent should a speedy striker and top-class central defender be added.
Landing Leicester's Jamie Vardy and Everton's John Stones - to name two candidates - would be difficult but they are the 20-time champions, and there is a bulging trove of cash available, so why not?
Chelsea's display shows problems run deeper than Mourinho
Given the London club last lost a league fixture to United on Oct 28, 2012, all the omens were in Guus Hiddink's favour as he searched for the first win of his second coming at Stamford Bridge.
But the manner in which his side failed to click is a concern for the Dutchman and suggests that Mourinho is not solely culpable for the dismal championship defence.