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Are Manchester United still title contenders?

Following the mostly dull 0-0 draw at Anfield, Manchester United’s Chris Smalling claimed that the Red Devils could still win the Premier League title.

“I think we have got more than enough. I think we have shown we can score goals and on nights like this we can keep a clean sheet and not give too many chances to them. We can do both sides of the job and it is about consistency now. We need to go on a little run and show people we are a team that is a threat.

“I think the fixtures we have got this week are ones that we can make a turning point this season. We have got a clean sheet which has not happened for a few games. Hopefully, we can kick on now, we have got Thursday and Sunday, and confidence is good.”

The Premier League is incredibly competitive at the top now, even with Leicester City as defending champions. United has to bounce from this 0-0 draw and play a Europa League match Thursday night against Fenerbahce followed by a Premier League fixture with Chelsea on Sunday. It is a big week for United and a win over Chelsea would be huge for an early edge on the Blues in a potential bid for the title.

United should feel right with the goalless draw at Liverpool, but it may be a bad sign to see United players like Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic under-performing considering the high expectations for these players. Ibrahimovic is understandable because of age and lack of experience in the Premier League, but he needs to step it up. Pogba is in big trouble. With his ludicrous price tag and constant change in hairstyle, a lot of pressure is on Pogba and the Frenchman has not been up to the task. He is capable of playing well and time will show his full potential at United.

With Jose Mourinho in charge, confidence is high for the players because the manager’s past success in England. He knows how to win in the Premier League and he can get the best out of many players, which can take time. Patience from fans is going to be key for Mourinho’s success. If fans grow further frustrated with losses and dropped points against opponents United should put away, he could face similar criticism and treatment that Louis van Gaal endured. Mourinho is different because of his track record, but this only adds more pressure and more expectations.

It is not crazy to say that United can be title contenders this year. United has the personnel capable of running the table and reclaiming the Premier League trophy. United’s defense is working well at the moment but the attack needs to have some work done. Marcus Rashford is a superb talent and there is plenty of depth in the offense, but there is a low production rate currently. The 3-0 win against Southampton and the 4-1 win against Leicester City showed what United’s attack can do but it is not consistent. Smalling, who captained United at Anfield, is confident with United’s defence.

“I think it is that consistency and those run of games. From a personal point of view I missed all of the pre-season games and it is nice to get a fine run. I am feeling fitter and fresher every game. I think you can tell the defence is a lot more compact. I am one of the ones who has played more games and we aren’t an old defence so it was time for someone to step in there and be that leader. I am enjoying being that leader.”

A title is not out of reach for United, but to get that desired piece of silverware, beating rivals will be monumental, and winning matches against mid-table sides is a must. If United can latch onto momentum following a win, there could be no stopping Mourinho’s men in a search for Old Trafford’s 21st league title.

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