A Premier League table just several weeks into the season does not count for much. But as far as starting on the right note goes, it does not get much better than the manner in which the Red Devils have hit the ground running.
Two 4-0 wins on the bounce to start the season was the perfect start, with a steady supply of goals starkly contrasting last seasons often-barren United attack. All the forward players seem to be relishing the opportunity to create chances for one another as well as convert them with a ruthlessness that was absent during the previous campaign. Romelu Lukaku has already netted thrice and Paul Pogba is reaping the benefits of having Nemanja Matic as his midfield partner, with the Frenchman also scoring in both of the opening two games. Anthony Martial coming off the bench and contributing a goal in the team’s late flurry on each occasion is also a welcome bonus for Jose Mourinho. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has assumed the role of chief creator, with 5 assists already. David De Gea well established between the sticks and a balanced back four has resulted in an unbeaten defence thus far.
Granted, Mourinho has been the first one to downplay any expectations and shy as far away from the tag of “title favourites” as possible. Yet, even the most skeptical fans would agree that there seems an added motivation and extra hunger that the team is displaying. The team spirit is remarkably evident on the pitch, with the entire squad wanting to play for each other and, most importantly, their manager. The Portuguese, who might look miles away from even the remotest smile, surely knows that this side has clearly laid down a marker.
After all, most of the enthusiasm stems from his track record itself. He has won the league in his second season wherever he has been, including the achievement of this feat in both his spells with Chelsea. With the majority of the transfer window being spent with reports circulating around his discontent with the acquisitions or the lack of them, his new signings have certainly given Manchester United the desired lift. Matic might just turn out to be the buy of the summer and Lukaku has already begun doing what he does best, putting the ball in the back of the net. Victor Lindelof will take time to settle into the team and a new league, and if the emerging signs of a partnership between Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are anything to go by, the Swede will have a battle on his hands for a first team place.
What has to be kept in mind is that the fixture list has been comparatively kind to United. None of the top 6 from last year in their first 9 fixtures obviously represents an extremely encouraging start. A few tricky fixtures like the visits to Stoke City and Southampton coupled with the hosting of Everton, but isn’t every game in this league inherently tricky? That said, the number of points that they dropped against mid-table opposition, especially at home, was the major reason for an unsatisfactory league campaign. This time though, the performances seem to exude a vibe of confidence and a cut-throat nature, which would definitely quell the fears of supporters in relation to last year.
There will be twists and turns in the ensuing months for sure, with the Champions League also kicking into gear in September providing an extra dimension to consider. The depth that this team possesses should allow it to deal with any injury concerns in a fairly resolute manner, though a serious injury to one of the key players might hamper the progress. The pressure of competing for every trophy that they play for is something which the United squad is not unfamiliar with. That will not be any different this term. It will be interesting to see how they cope with the extra expectations after those scintillating opening displays.
The staunch believers of omens would already hand the title to Mourinho in his second season. Football does not quite work that way, though the promising nature of their performances cannot be ignored, even in this nascent stage of the season. There will be big games and then even bigger games, a lot to test the mettle of this team. Only time will tell whether this bunch can handle the weight of winning the first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson left. They seem the most likely to, compared to the squads that have previously aimed to achieve this feat. It’s going to be a long and hard season, with there being as much chance of Manchester United not being a significant part of the title race as there is of Leicester City winning the league again anytime soon.