November produced a mixed bag of results for Manchester United.
While back-to-back winless games against Copenhagen and Galatasaray left the Red Devils on the brink of an early Champions League elimination, things look far more promising in the Premier League.
Following an embarrassing 3-0 League Cup defeat to Newcastle United to start the month, Erik ten Hag’s side have gone into overdrive, winning all three league games in November without conceding.
Bruno Fernandes’ late strike at Craven Cottage inspired United to a 1-0 win at Fulham before Victor Lindelof’s second-half winner made the difference in an identical triumph against Luton Town.
To cap off a scintillating month in England’s top flight, Man Utd delivered arguably their best performance of 2023/24, thumping relegation-battling Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park.
A string of encouraging results in November helped the club soar to sixth in the table, closing the gap on fourth-placed Manchester City to a mere three points.
On top of United’s impressive rise after an abysmal first three months of the season, they achieved this form resurgence without several crucial team elements.
These include Ten Hag’s most trusted defender, Lisandro Martinez, who has been out of the picture for months, leaving the Dutchman short of reliable options at the back.
Fallen hero’s meteoric rise
In addition to Martinez’s long-term injury, Raphael Varane suffered a significant dip in form, culminating with Ten Hag shifting him to the bench and reintegrating Lindelof into his starting XI.
But when summer returnee Jonny Evans succumbed to a fitness problem, the ex-Ajax manager reluctantly had to put former captain Harry Maguire back at the heart of his defence.
Scepticism crept in as Man United were already well off their A-game, with the England international’s return to the fold prompting more fears among the Old Trafford faithful.
How can someone who only last summer was stripped of the club’s captaincy after a few years of comic performances could help steady the ship in times of uncertainty?
That question must have been at the forefront of United supporters’ minds, but more importantly, Ten Hag’s.
Little did anyone know that Maguire would defy every expectation, rolling back the years to remind the Premier League of his blistering form in the Leicester City jersey.
Being named the Premier League Player of the Month came as a fitting reward for the 30-year-old’s unexpected, albeit most welcome, rise to prominence.
Picky Blinder ascends to the throne
To be voted the Premier League Manager of the Month is no small feat, especially considering the fierce competition.
However, Ten Hag’s relentless effort to restore Man Utd among the Premier League elite received suitable recognition as the Dutchman flourished in the face of adversity.
Even without Martinez and last season’s midfield backbone in the shape of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen, the 53-year-old found a way to lead the Red Devils to maximum points in November.
Like his job wasn’t already challenging enough, he had to deal with Marcus Rashford’s notable fall from grace and Rasmus Hojlund’s lack of match fitness.
But not even such extraordinary circumstances had deterred Ten Hag from accomplishing his ultimate goal – bringing Man United back into the top-four frame.
Flying golden boy
From an ominous fog of uncertainty, a hero emerged.
With Rashford losing his touch, Man Utd needed someone to partner up with Fernandes and provide the team with a much-needed cutting-edge up top.
Kudos to Scott McTominay, whose ability to channel his inner Eric Cantona and come up with some crucial goals this season has been of paramount importance to United’s top-four surge.
But Alejandro Garnacho’s outstanding form in Rashford’s absence has added a new dimension to United’s attacking prowess, serving as a testament to the team’s depth and promising future.
The Argentine whizzkid’s crowning achievement came at Goodison Park as his spectacular overhead kick opened the scoring and laid the groundwork for an emphatic victory.
The footage of the 19-year-old’s moment of brilliance quickly travelled the world, earning him a leading spot in the race for the famous Puskas Award for the best goal in a calendar year.
But although he’ll have to wait a while longer to find out his fate in that competition, the Premier League rewarded Garnacho with the division’s ‘Goal of the Month’ prize.
By the looks of things, a bright future is on the horizon.
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