Manchester United: Five Factors Behind Their Resurgence
October 08, 2017
Manchester United’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Everton saw the Red Devils return to the summit of the Premier League table alongside arch-rivals Manchester City after half a dozen encounters. Both sides have made blistering starts to their campaigns with a flawless and free-scoring City yet to suffer defeat in any competition.
United’s sole setback came in the UEFA Super Cup against Zinedine Zidane’s all–conquering Real Madrid side, but Sunday was the third time already this season that they have found the back of the net four times without reply.
Their disappointing sixth place finish last time out was brushed aside by their double measure of success in the Europa League and EFL Cup, but make no mistake – this current Manchester United squad are the real deal. José Mourinho’s side have laid down an early marker in the title race and will continue to pile the pressure on their ‘noisy neighbours’ as the two Manchester clubs gear up for a titanic title tussle.
Just what has changed at Old Trafford to spark this revival and what do the opening stages of this symphony tell us about the drama that is likely to unfold as United go in search of a first top-flight crown since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from the helm four years ago?
A new-found cutting edge has seen United resolve their inability to kill off teams, having plummeted 15 goals in their opening six matches and eight different players registering their names on the scoresheet.
Too many draws (15 in total) hurt their top-four ambitions last season, but an influx of exuberance and callous finishing has reawakened a jaded frontline, denoted by the sad decline of club legend Wayne Rooney who has now moved onto pastures new.
United must stay clinical if they are to keep pace with a seemingly rampant City.
For all their attacking superlatives, United’s rock-solid defence has already amassed five clean sheets and conceded just twice (both coming in the 2-2 draw at Stoke). Goalkeeper David De Gea is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league and the form of centre-half Phil Jones has seen him labelled “England’s best defender” by manager Gareth Southgate.
The art of defending is a Mourinho speciality with his organised defence capable of stifling teams and no longer exposed by a lack of balance in the centre of the park.
Big-Money Signings Paying Off
The mammoth £75m fee splashed out on Romelu Lukaku is already being repaid with the 24-year-old scoring five goals in his first five Premier League appearances. Prior to his arrival, the powerful Belgian was very much a divisive figure with an under-developed game, yet his ability to change the scoreline with such regularity sits in relative isolation. To put it into perspective, he only requires 11 goals to surpass Didier Drogba’s tally.
On the other hand, £30m Swedish defender Victor Lindelof has been eased into Manchester United life with his assured Old Trafford debut coming in their Champions League win against Basel, although he has yet to be introduced to the frenetic nature of the Premier League. The youngster has been tipped to become an Old Trafford success, so all eyes will be on the former Benfica star when he is placed into the firing line.
Even though his arrival came in the summer of 2016, the rejuvenation of Paul Pogba should also be murmured in the same breath as the aforementioned Lukaku and Lindelof. Before the unfortunate injury he picked up against Basel, Pogba was beginning to demonstrate the swagger and all-round aptitude that made him the world’s most expensive footballer before the hysteria of Neymar’s move to PSG.
With his performances no longer being scrutinized through the lens of his transfer fee, the French playmaker has revelled in the free roaming role that Mourinho has granted to him with two goals and two assists already this campaign.
Arrival Of Nemanja Matic
Why Chelsea sold one of their most influential players to one of their biggest rivals still beggars belief. However, the Blues loss is most certainly United’s gain. The arrival of Matic has provided their defensive line with staunch protection and by occupying this key position, the Serbian international is the essential element in allowing the flair players to express themselves.
Matic brings stability and has been the unsung catalyst behind United’ sweeping fluency and expansive style of play. Even at £40m, he may well prove to be the signing of the season.
It should be highlighted that the confidence levels throughout Mourinho’s squad are sky-high and this is evident with the impact being made by those coming late on in games.
Youngsters such as Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are growing in stature and have been potent in front of goal – the French forward has netted three times after coming off the bench and Rashford continues to live up to the hype that surrounds his world-class potential.
Mourinho has moulded together a close-knit squad and maintaining this feel-good factor will be pivotal if they are to compete on all fronts.
How Will Their Season Pan Out?
It already appears that we should be bracing ourselves for a two-horse race between the two Manchester clubs, but Mourinho would be equally as ecstatic if he can rebuild United’s reputation as one of the giants in European football with a prolonged run in club football’s most fabled competition.
They have the strength in depth, they have the quality and in Mourinho they have a manager that historically has delivered big in his second season. Either way, it promises to be something special.