Manchester United back in the thick of it after professional displays?


Manchester United have seemingly turned a corner at this stage of the season, winning three Premier League matches in a row, in different circumstances. Just over a week ago came a narrow 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, a match which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan sidelined through injury. United then traveled to Crystal Palace, when they won the match 2-1, seeing Juan Mata’s goal ruled offside and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a late goal, taking all three points. Then, on Saturday evening, United put in a resolute and professional display in their 2-0 victory over Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion, with David De Gea keeping his second clean sheet in three league matches. United have been playing well for the past few months, dominating matches, but not always winning, which was a problem Jose Mourinho’s team seems to have put behind them, for now at least.

In the summer, Mourinho made four astute signings in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. Players the club needed; a confident defender, a twenty goal a season striker, a right-winger with pace and a midfielder the club could build a team around. At the start of the season, with the additions Mourinho made, confidence was high and continues for four matches before the first defeat came about, which turned into three in a row, bringing the discontent from supporters who had previously been moaning for three years. The defeats turned into differing results; wins and draws, before another defeat came about. Discontent commenced and many so-called supporters were at melting point, despite this season being the best, for performances, since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

United then started to play beautiful, attacking football, albeit it in cup competitions, beating Feyenoord 4-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League, then the dismantling of West Ham United in a 4-1 thriller in the EFL Cup, which saw United make the semi-final of the tournament, least reached under the ill-fated guidance of David Moyes. United then made it through to the knockout stages of the Europa League with a 2-0 victory over Zorya Luhansk, drawing French side Saint-Etienne in the round of 32, a decent result for United, but a year ago, a draw against FC Midtjylland was deemed as a good draw ahead of the first leg. United’s struggles, though, seemed to be transferring their gracious style of play from the cup competitions to their Premier League matches. Against Spurs, United seemed to do this, managing that narrow victory, but the next match away to Palace seemed to be the real turning point of the season, or so it seems.

Against Palace, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were the two players responsible for obtaining the points with Zlatan assisting the Frenchman at the end of the first half and Pogba assisting the Swede in the final two minutes of the match, winning in Fergie Time style, which really upset United’s rivals, who now seem to occupy the places above them in the league, many not really secure in their positions. Not all that long ago, Manchester United, still in sixth place, were eleven points adrift of Arsenal, the side who seem to have played the same season for the best part of a decade. After back to back defeats against Everton and Manchester City, Arsenal find themselves only four matches clear of United, a team their fans suggest is mediocre. A team that last won a league title nearly 13 years ago, half the length of time Liverpool had won one. A team constantly being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the round of 16 stage – a team content with fourth place.

The thing is, Manchester United have had three years from it all, and may face another season without competing for the Premier League title, but his season alone, things have made a turn for the better. Jose Mourinho has started something. His management of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, despite it being criticised by many, worked. The Portuguese manager is doing something similar with Anthony Martial, who needs to find his feet again, and I am sure he will continue to do it with players who need to go that extra mile to get them playing the United way, although it does not seem to be happening with Memphis Depay, who seems to have been written off by the manager, and rightly so. He’s done nothing of note last season, or this, so another club should be his destination. I am sure the media will let us all know when he performs and United are used to sell stories again after a player, who was a flop, put in a semi-decent performance at another club.

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