Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
A 2-1 win against Everton early this month was Manchester United’s third consecutive home win in the Premier League, and also saw the Red Devils move into fourth place in the table for the first time in 14 months.
Supporters are now confident that United can remain in a Champions League spot, and potentially push on for league honours come May. While it may be too early to suggest Manchester United are back as contenders, here are five reasons why they can still challenge for the Premier League.
Old Trafford Becoming a Fortress Once Again
Last season, under former manager David Moyes, United were appalling at home. They lost a record seven Premier League games at home, winning just nine times at Old Trafford – their lowest tally since 1990. This time in 2013/14, United had won just once at home.
But this season, Moyes’ permanent successor Louis Van Gaal has rectified the problems. After losing their opening game at home, United have turned it around with three wins in a row at Old Trafford. Solid home form is a platform for a good league campaign, and there’s no doubt United look to be in the right place now.
Calibre of Summer Signings
Manchester United have made some of the biggest signings in their history this summer. They broke their transfer record to sign former Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria for £65M, in addition to spending around £170M in total on six new players.
World Cup runner-up Marcus Rojo, 2013/14 PFA Team of the Year nominee Luke Shaw, Euro 2011 U21 winner Ander Herrera, multiple Eredivisie title-winner Daley Blind and two-time Europa League winner Radamel Falcao all arrived at Old Trafford this summer.
It’s a United side boasting a host of world-class quality that is starting to breed results on the pitch. Di Maria has taken little time to adjust to the Premier League, scoring three goals and making three assists in five games. There’s a lot to come from the new recruits.
Combative Nature Finally Back in Midfield
One of the biggest criticisms of Manchester United last season was that the midfield lacked any real bite to control the game. That’s now been laid to rest under Van Gaal.
Between them, midfielders Ander Herrera and Daley Blind average a tackle or interception every 15 minutes. They have also made 10 fouls between them, resulting in just two yellow cards, which shows just how well they’re nullifying the threat of the opposition.
Injury List Depleting Will See Form Improving
Manchester United have suffered from a host of injuries mainly to their defence this season, while losing their key midfielder for the long-term too, which has forced them to name experimental sides in most every league game so far.
But when such injury-plagued players return to the first-team, United’s form will vastly improve. In the Premier League this season, left-back Luke Shaw has played only 162 minutes football, while centre-backs Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have only played 214 & 196 minutes respectively.
When Manchester United can name the same starting eleven for a run of games, their winning ways will return.
High Levels of Creativity
Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera have been Manchester United’s most creative quartet this season. Di Maria has been the standout performer, creating 16 chances in five games, contributing six goals in total.
The four players have collectively scored 10 goals, made 7 assists and created 35 chances in in the Premier League, averaging a goal or goalscoring chance every 32 minutes. Such a creative quartet of players will be key for United to maintain their push for the top, and fewer sides can boast a better contribution from their squad.
Due to their upturn in form, Manchester United are now the third favourites to win the Premier League title, with BetVictor giving the best odds of 16/1. Chelsea are still the runaway favourites, but United’s improvement in results will see the early pacesetters looking over their shoulders.