Manchester United made a very poor start to the 2020/2021 season, losing 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in their opening game before getting thrashed 6-1 by Spurs in the same stadium. But few could have predicted that the club could leapfrog to the top of the Premier League table.
United registered as a strong title contender in their 1-0 win against Burnley on January 12 to become table toppers.
However, there are doubts that the Red Devils are ready to win the prestigious title. United’s legend Andy Cole was one of the many voices of doubting Thomases saying:
“I don’t think we’ve got enough to go ahead and win it this season, but I feel we can look towards next season when I think it could be a lot better.”
Even Paul Pogba, United’s saviour at Burnley, said his team is not on the same level as the champions Liverpool, in an exclusive interview ahead of the match at Anfield on Sunday.
The doubts and fears are not unmerited as United are widely known for their lack of consistency, especially since Alex Ferguson left the club eight years ago.
The Red Devils have seen a succession of managers who have not gotten close to the title race since then.
Not until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed up and took the 20-time Premier League Champions close to the title last season as they unexpectedly finished third after a run of poor forms and now first on the table so far this season.
To add to the inconsistency, United crashed out of the Champions League this season after topping their group.
But Sunday’s goalless game against Liverpool at Anfield in which Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba came close to scoring at the last minutes, have shown Solskjaer’s men mean business this time.
First of all, Solskjaer has shown he’s a tactical genius after all – making his team the underdogs and boom! they’re the winners which leaves everyone staring wide-eyed with shock.
He also bears lady luck’s stamp in acquiring players with same tactics. Since the Norwegian took over at Old Trafford, United have waited until Deadline Day to make what most consider as a desperate attempt to buy just “any” players. Odion Ighalo, Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles, Bruno Fernandes are all in this category. These “unwanted” players turn out to be cornerstones of the squad.
Ighalo hit the ground running as soon as he arrived at Old Trafford, with five goals in his name. That he isn’t scoring now is because he hasn’t been given the chance to play this season.
Paris Saint-Germain all-time highest goalscorer has also been a sensation for United since his arrival, helping an otherwise failing team rapidly climb to the top of the table.
Fernandes had been on fire for United since his arrival in 2020 January transfer window. The Portuguese star has had a greater transformative effect on United than any other signing in the post-Fergie era.
Fernandes has scored 30 goals in 27 Premier League appearances for United! Take away his often on-target penalties, the midfielder is a lovely sight to behold on the field. He inspires his teammates to do better. Even newly-resurrected Pogba was a beneficiary of such inspiration.
Apart from Fernandes, Henderson, Bailly, Alex Telles, Matic, Pogba, Van de Beek, Mata, Greenwood, Cavani, Ighalo, Rashford, Martial, Pogba, Maguire are some of the players hungry for glory in the team.
So the question should not be if United could carry the Premier League title this season? Instead it should be if the Red Devils have what it takes to gun for the title. And the answer is a resounding YES!
Every 2020/2021 top contenders have their weaknesses, including the indomitable Liverpool. But Solskjaer’s side have enough strength to dethrone the champions and take the title to Old Trafford for the 21st time.
By Nonyelum Ozoemena