It felt like, for a large portion of the Manchester United fanbase, there was no way back following the humiliating 4-0 defeat to Brentford in August. The Cristiano Ronaldo situation loomed large on the Red Devils, all besides the ongoing protests for the Glazer family to sell the 13-time Premier League champions.
However, Manchester United are now being talked about as a potential candidate for the Premier League title – something that would not have been expected a few months ago. With the help of Erik ten Hag and an in-form Marcus Rashford, Manchester United are showing what they are capable of against elite opposition, such as Manchester City. But how has the mood around Old Trafford changed in such a short space of time?
The start of Manchester United’s season can simply be put in one word – disaster. Anticipation was building after an impressive pre-season and a host of new additions, spending £220 million in the process. They kicked off their campaign with an underwhelming 2-1 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, showing there was still work to be done.
The worst one of all followed though as the Red Devils were thumped 4-0 by Brentford. The Bees were all over their opponents, in particular in the first half, as Thomas Frank’s side ran away with a 4-0 lead at half-time. Goals from Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee and Bryan Mbuemo added yet more damage to a disappointing start to the season. But change was coming…
The game that sparked their season back into life was a 2-1 win over Liverpool. Before the game, there was a feisty atmosphere inside Old Trafford as mass protests were held outside in protest to the Glazers. It felt like there was only going to be one winner after United’s horrendous start to the season but Jadon Sancho gave them a first-half lead. Rashford doubled their lead eight minutes after the restart and they hung on for an integral victory.
That victory over Liverpool was a catalyst for a flurry of victories which saw them pick up wins against Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal. The latter was the most impressive as, despite the Gunners being the better side, they managed to win 3-1 to show they could cut it against the top sides in the division.
Despite this, there were still some frailties in the defence and that showed in the Manchester derby after a 6-3 defeat to their bitter rivals Manchester City. Following the defeat, the Red Devils went unbeaten in five of their next six and then came the break for the FIFA World Cup.
One key influence in United’s successful run has been the form of Marcus Rashford. The 25-year-old was not his usual self last season as he only netted on four occasions in the Premier League. Questions remained about whether he would return to his best, as shown in previous seasons, but to say he has been on fire would be an understatement.
The England international has been causing Premier League defences problems all season which has resulted in him scoring 12 in 23 top-flight games. He has been key in United’s push into the higher echelons of the table and it doesn’t look like he is going to stop anytime soon. Rashford will certainly be key in the run-in at the end of the season.
Another reason why the Red Devils are having a great season is the additions that were made in the summer. Christian Eriksen joined on a free from Brentford, but unfortunately, the Dane has been ruled out for the season with an ankle injury. Tyrell Malacia was an astute signing for an initial £13 million fee while Lisandro Martínez, despite his struggles earlier this season, is very important to their style of play.
Eyebrows were raised at the signing of Casemiro from Real Madrid for a fee believed to be around £70 million. At the age of 30, the Brazilian was thought to have passed his best after lifting five UEFA Champions Leagues. However, he has been one of their best players this season and without him, they are a completely different team. That was shown when they came up against title rivals Arsenal and lost. And again, against Leeds United as they drew to the relegation contenders.
The Red Devils have a very important couple of months ahead. They progressed to the Carabao Cup final where they will face Newcastle United and they also face Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League. This article is being written before the Barcelona game. On top of this, they are still in the Emirates FA Cup and still competing in the higher echelons of the Premier League table.
It remains to be seen whether the Red Devils will be able to keep up this excellent form. Consistency will be key and they are still in four competitions in which they have a good chance of succeeding in. Even if they do not win any silverware this season, ten Hag has done a terrific job to turn Manchester United’s fortunes around but they will be eager to secure their first major trophy since 2017 in the remainder of the season.