There’s a negative vibe around Manchester United right now. A sizeable portion of the fans are clamouring for a free-flowing, Sir Alex Ferguson-style team capable of sweeping aside all in its path. To be frank, this isn’t possible anymore: The Premier League’s minnows are now more than capable of putting in solid defensive displays that can stifle any attacking talent.
Despite, however, the pervasive pessimism, there is much for fans to be encouraged by. Manchester United currently sit second in the table — their best league position and points-tally at this stage of the season since Fergie retired in 2013. Moreover, their points total would have them at the summit of the top-tier in two of the last four seasons.
Contrary to the misguided media perception, this United side is far from boring.
As the second-highest scorers in the division, they’ve netted more than the much-lauded Liverpool attack. And for all his supposed struggles, Romelu Lukaku has contributed to more goals than anyone else in the league — excluding Mohamed Salah. They’ve also been typically tight at the back. Just 12 goals have been conceded in 18 games, which is the best in the league, tied with Pep Guardiola’s trail-blazers. This team is both hard to beat and hard to stop, a motif of a Jose Mourinho side.
The significant improvement at Old Trafford has been entirely overshadowed by the near-perfection of their city rivals. This is the best Manchester United side we’ve seen since Sir Alex retired, but that gets little attention due to the huge gulf in class with City. Despite this, it’s worth keeping in mind that United breezed through their Champions League group with five wins out of six, and have also been handed a favourable draw in the last 16 against Sevilla.
Additionally, Mourinho’s side is in the quarter final of the newly branded Carabao Cup, of which they’re the holders, and travel to high-flying Championship side Bristol City as firm favourites to progress to the semi-finals.
This has been a terrific season thus far – it just takes a modicum of perspective to see it.
In reality, it could have been even better. The injury to Paul Pogba curtailed the season. The creativity he brings to the team is exceptional, and is so badly missed when absent. The high-profile struggles this year have all come when he’s not been available. The draw away at Liverpool, as well as the losses at Chelsea and Huddersfield all, came when Pogba was out. He was also missing when United were well beaten by Man City. When he was in the team against a big side, United ran out 3-1 winners at the Emirates Stadium, ending a seven-month long unbeaten streak for Arsene Wenger’s men at home.
Of course fans clamour for better, and United shouldn’t be happy with playing second fiddle to City, but there’s been far more to cheer about this season than you may realise.