On the 19th of January, 2020, Manchester United lost 2—0 to Liverpool at Anfield. At that point many football faithfuls perceived United are no contender for the EPL title yet. Not even in 2 years to come. Barely a year later, Ole’s United find themselves at the top of the league with a 3 points gap ahead of the same Klopp’s Liverpool squad
who they encounter on Sunday in a fiesty match. Manchester United recent trajectory on the Premier league curve has raised reasonable questions bothering on whether they can be tagged as worthy contender for the EPL title.
The last time Manchester United were on top of the league in January was 8 years ago (2012/13 season) under Sir Alex Ferguson.
https://twitter.com/goal/status/1349332676965228547?s=19United were at that stage 6 points ahead of Roberto Mancini’s City, Liverpool were 9th on the log, the world was still in a stable state without a pandemic, Britain were still in Europe, Goodluck Jonathan was still Nigeria’s president, Donald Trump was still a business man, Chelsea were UCL defending champions, Arsenal were still trophyless *chuckles*. Manchester United went on to win the league that season. Will history repeat itself again?
Manchester United transitioning from being a pretender to the contender for the EPL title has come as a bit of shock to many. Sports business personnel, @folahan_mg strongly believes Ole guner solksjeer revamped management skills is the catalyst behind United being at the top of the league.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has assembled the best squad since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Also, he has greatly improved players who failed under past managers. The likes of Fred, Luke Shaw, even Rashford and Martial have played way better under Ole’s management. He deserves more credit than what he is getting
The numbers and stats of the aforementioned players is a testament to Fola’s thoughts. One can’t also rule out the importance of Maguire and Bruno Fernández signatures to United. The coming in of Fernández played a huge role in upgrading the gameplay of his teammates. Bruno Fernándes is arguably United’s best signing since Robin Van Persie and Ibrahimovic. His outrageous stats are bogus for someone who joined the club in January. Due credit must go to Ole for not only signing him but also integrating him efficiently in to the squad. Although Fernández form have bleeped since the start of the new year, other influential players like Pogba have raised to the occasion to deliver the good.
Living in the moment
Social media has been set agog by United fans because of their current league standings.Not even the Uefa Cup triumph nor the second league position they achieved under former manager Jose Mourinho attracted this high level of buzz and enthusiasm. Garry Neville feels United fans in the social space have the right to be carried away in the moment because they never envisaged to be here.
“The fans have the rights to be delirious in the moment irrespective of what rival fans might think about their title hope”.
Will this momentum transcend to winning the league?
Is United a contender for the EPL Title?
United stats for the last 11 games are stuff of a contender. In fact they are unbeaten in 11 games, won 4 out of the last 5 games. That is the longest streak in the league this season. Only Liverpool have scored more goals (37)than United who have 34. Going by these numbers, the team is delicately poised to win the league without an iota of doubt. The 2-3 comeback win at Southampton at the end of November looks crucial in their title race. They have been relentless in the league since then and have given themselves a shot at glory.
But the skepticism in the camp of some united fans can’t be overlooked despite the enticing numbers they have churn out. One of such is from a Manchester United enthusiast Isaac Ojo @beard_mvhn, who Isn’t fully sticking out his head yet for Ole.
This United team still feels incomplete and need strengthening. Even though no top 4 team has recovered swiftly from a rough patch during the season like United did. I can only categorically state that Ole is in a becoming stage. I will propose him to be ripe in being tagged a contender
Irrespective of the final result against Liverpool on Sunday, the next couple of games before the highly anticipated Manchester City clashes are potential banana peel fixtures for both Ole and Klopp teams. Manchester City recent form has been slightly overlooked by the media. This is largely because they are not blowing teams apart like they did seasons ago. City are more pragmatic in their all around play, they are defending better and are conceding fewer goals. While United defence have been largely culpable prior to the new year. The team’s clean sheet win against Burnley was their first away clean sheet in the Premier League this season. A team’s potent attack might win games but it is their ability to defend properly and effectively that wins titles.
@folahan_mg also shares same sentiments with Isaac Ojo. For him, Solskjaer lack of a killer instinct in critical games might hurt their EPl title chase.
“There is obviously a lot of quality talent in that squad but there is still a lack of a Serial winning mentality and that starts from the manager. The lack of this key factor has shown up in games against PSG, LEIPZIG in the UCL” Fola continues “They still have some work to do to get to the beast level of Liverpool and Manchester City. Once they do, they can go all out to win the league”
It is noteworthy that Ole has successfully failed to qualify from a semi final position four times in different Cup competitions. A team that clearly wants to win titles must dig deeper when it matters most. Klopp’s Liverpool, Simeone’s Atleti have successfully transcended from where United currently are. Moving from an underachiever stage to world beaters. If Ole can sort his defense and midfield pairings right, they are delicately poised to shock many rival fans come May.
It is a tad difficult shying away from the side talks from other EPL managers bothering on Ole’s team benefiting from Referee biase. Some penalty calls have been extremely controversial and questionable despite the introduction of VAR. What it is glaring in the midst of the controversies is the very fact that United are the 4th team to garner more penalties(6) this season. Leicester City has 8. Even Klopp who went on a media chat rampage about those referee decisions have scored the same number of penalties as United. The only distinction is that virtually every penalty scored by United were game deciders in comparison to Liverpool.