United laid down a marker for the season in their opener against West Ham with a 4-0 win and backed it up with the same scoreline against Swansea. So far this season they have looked every bit the title contenders they were built up to be.
Results so far
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United have been imperious in all competitions this season. They have dismantled their opponents, with an off-day against Stoke the only blemish on their Premier League record. Four 4-0 wins confirm the strength of their performances.
Many will point to their late scoring for “inflating” the scorelines, but many of the best teams take a lead and then feast late on as the opposition chase or tire. Ten of their 21 league goals have come in the 80th minute or later.
Attacking flair stems from new signings
United have been more creative than last year, striking a good balance with Nemanja Matic’s presence allowing Paul Pogba to roam more, and for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to find space off the ball.
Romelu Lukaku’s power and pace has been a critical factor in United’s resurgent attack. Where last year with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the spearhead they were slow and deliberate, and it led to a lot of half-chances and low scoring. This year, Lukaku has allowed quick breaks, provided good holdup play and brought United far more success in front of goal.
But they haven’t played anyone!
Five of United’s Premier League opponents currently reside in the bottom six. The other two (Southampton and Stoke) are 12th & 13th. It is not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents. Their title rivals Manchester City have already taken their trip to Stamford Bridge and demolished Liverpool.
It is a very fair critique of United’s season to preach caution and want to wait until they take on someone in the top half, nevermind the top six. However, they have dismantled their opponents so far with a mixture of classical Jose Mourinho defending and brute power up front.
United return from the international break with a trip to Anfield to take on their bitter rivals. They should be able to feast on Liverpool’s defensive frailty, but their own attacking prowess will give us a good indication of just how solid the 2017/18 Red Devils are at the back.
So far United have avoided the issue that plagued them so greatly in the last campaign which was too many draws. They are certainly not going to take 15 ties away from this season, thanks mostly to their improved goal-scoring. Last year they simply couldn’t get the second, but now they are adding a second, third, and fourth on a regular basis. Even Marouane Fellaini, long maligned by United fans, has been getting in on the act. My colleague Harry Brooks is extremely high on Marcus Rashford, and his performance against Crystal Palace at the weekend makes it very easy to see why. His ability to take on defenders as well as pick a pass gives United a different dimension when the pure passing isn’t working, and he is one of the best weapons on the break in the Premier League.
The fact that Rashford is keeping Anthony Martial on the bench for the most part is a great sign for England as well as United, but the option to bring Martial on makes United’s left flank one of the most dangerous entities in football. Martial has been a super-sub in the truest form. Despite playing just 140 of a possible 630 minutes he has three goals and two assists in the Premier League. While he has picked up more minutes in the Champions League, his impact off the bench in the Premier League has been as vital a component of United’s season and a crucial plan B should plan A stutter.
United’s true position for the season will come when they get to face Spurs on 28th October and then Chelsea on 5th November. If they come away from those games with four points then we will know they are here to stay. Struggle and their position atop the league becomes far more questionable.
In short then, United have looked exceptionally good in games they struggled in last season, but it’s too early to tell if they are really the title challengers Mourinho needs them to be.
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