Often enough, we see Manchester United stutter at least somewhat over the course of the first few months of the season, then catch fire and show their best at the right time on the way to a successful season. But unlike, say, last season, United started fast this season, and for the most part, the first couple of months of the season were full of positives.
Then Sunday came, and that’s upset the apple-cart a bit, to say the least. However, derby defeat notwithstanding, United have done a lot of good things this season. Not only are United ahead of last season’s pace point-wise, Manchester United statistics show a six-goal increase from this point last season, and until Sunday, United had fared far better defensively early on this season than they did at the start of last season. And if the side responds as we should expect them to, there will be much more good to come.
Last season, United didn’t hit the 20-point mark until their 10th game, so they’re ahead of the pace from that standpoint, with 20 from nine games.
United started the season with five wins from five, outscoring opponents 21-4 in the process. United recorded only five victories by three or more goals five times all of last season, but there were three such victories in those first five wins, and all in a row, with Tottenham, Arsenal, and Bolton all being dispatched convincingly.
Things have slowed since, with United’s lone win in their last four matches coming against Norwich City. There have been some inexcusable mistakes in that stretch, like Jonny Evans’ double whammy on Sunday, and United have also not been as threatening in attack as they were at the start. But there are still injury issues to contend with, along with having to face some tough opposition, and with that in mind, the next few months look a lot more pleasing to the eye, after Saturday‘s tricky visit to Everton.
At the halfway point of the group stage, Manchester United are halfway to the qualification target of 10 points, and as it stands, are well placed to advance the round of 16 for the sixth season in a row.
However, things could be even better, were it not for throwing away a two-goal halftime lead at home against Basel. Not only did United contrive to throw away a comfortable lead, but they fell behind with less than 20 minutes remaining. But in the end, the shock defeat was avoided, thanks to Ashley Young’s late equalizer.
After last week’s 2-0 away win against Otelul Galati, United are in second on five points, two behind Benfica and one ahead of Basel. United have Otelul Galati and Benfica coming to Old Trafford before finishing group play with a trip to Basel, and all three of those are very winnable fixtures. If they can indeed pick up maximum points from those matches, which they should, to be honest, it’ll mean a group win and a chance at a fairly favorable round of 16 tie.
Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, 28 August
Well this certainly wins the award for best result of the season to date, no doubt about that. United were ruthless against the Gunners, starting with Danny Welbeck’s 22nd-minute opener and not letting up until Ashley Young’s second stunner of the match with time winding down.
Along the way, there was also a penalty save from David de Gea that perhaps marked a turning point for him after a rough start to Premier League life. Since then, we’ve seen De Gea produce several fine moments and performances, showing just why United invested so much into him this past summer.
Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea, 18 September
This was a strange game, on the whole. The final scoreline could have looked more like a baseball score had each team put away the chances they had, but it ended up that three first-half United goals and a quick strike from Chelsea moments after the restart were all that we saw.
There was Wayne Rooney doing his best John Terry impression, Fernando Torres producing a miss that won’t be forgotten any time soon, and a number of others, not to mention some goal-related controversy, which seems to be par for the course these days when United and Chelsea meet. In terms of entertainment, it was certainly that, but it was more comedy than action thriller, by the time it was over. On a more serious note though, it was a big win for United, who didn’t play their best but still managed to walk away with a two-goal win.
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United, 15 October
The day that you’re over the moon about a draw is the day that your expectations have officially lowered, so it’d be wide of the mark to say that there’s reason to be happy about the draw at Anfield.
However, given the three consecutive defeats there preceding this result, there’s reason to be satisfied about coming away with a point, especially when Liverpool had so many chances to salt the match away. In the big picture, getting draws and wins in situations where you could or should have lost or drawn can prove to make a real difference in a tight title race, and that‘s how the result should be evaluated.
But it must be said that their goal was an incredibly soft one, on a free kick that had no business getting through the wall much less into the net, and United didn’t create nearly as many chances as one would hope. The formation that was sent out there, head-scratching as it was, was sent out there to not lose, and on that note, the mission was accomplished, thanks in no small part to David de Gea’s heroic efforts. A sign of things to come for the Spaniard? I believe so.
Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City, 23 October
The less said, the better. It still makes me ill to look at that scoreline, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
It could have been a much, much different game were it not for a couple of crucial moments, both unfortunately involving the same two people. But you can only look at ‘what if?’ so long before you pick up and move on, and that’s what United have to do very quickly in the wake of this defeat. Sure, it was one of the club’s darkest days for quite some time, for multiple reasons, but it will not make the title race, and it will not break United’s spirit.
While everything that Sir Alex Ferguson says is not gospel, his vow that the team will bounce back will be taken to heart by every one of those players who were part of or had to witness the disappointment and humiliation on Sunday, and it should be taken to heart by the United faithful as well.
United will bounce back, because that’s what United do. Simple as that.
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