Any time in the past when a club is three points off the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand, they’re in a title race.
But as we enter the new year, that’s exactly the position that Manchester United find themselves in. Yet there are plenty of question marks around whether or not they are genuine contenders to win title number 21.
An awful start to the season saw Manchester United had just two wins from their opening six Premier League games including defeats to Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Tottenham plus a draw with Chelsea.
The results had Old Trafford fans calling for Solskjaer’s head once again, with the club closer to a relegation battle than a title charge. They even crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages, having needed just one win from their final three games.
Since that defeat to Arsenal though, United are ten Premier League games unbeaten including wins over Everton, Leeds, Southampton, West Ham and Wolves while also getting a draw against Manchester City.
With Liverpool dropping points against four of the bottom six and struggling for their usual consistency, Manchester United have found themselves as the closest challengers to Klopp’s crown.
But are they really contenders? I don’t see why they can’t be.
All top teams need a defence performing to a good standard and attackers than can win games on their own. Manchester United currently have both of those things.
In attack, Marcus Rashford has been electric and scored 14 goals in all competitions so far but his performances even without goals or assists have been of a very high standard. He is winning games through pure ability, as illustrated by his super goal against Sheffield United to get the side level and his winner against Wolves in the 93rd minute.
Bruno Fernandes has also been as efficient as anyone in Europe this year and has continued that, with 31 goal contributions in 28 Premier League games since signing for the club including ten goals and seven assists this season.
In defence, their record looks shoddy because of the six conceded in the defeat to Spurs back in October. Since that defeat they have conceded 11 goals in 12 games, keeping four clean sheets. It’s not perfect but it’s not awful and Solskjaer’s team are scoring relatively freely in games.
With January around the corner, they could make some additions to help them improve in those areas even further and put together a real charge.
The difference at the end of the season could be the team that can put a string of wins together, and nobody has won more games in a row than Manchester United’s four at any point in the season so far.
They aren’t the only contenders, with Manchester City’s two games in hand giving them a false league position right now but Solskjaer’s side are certainly best placed to challenge the defending champions as it stands.
The title is still Liverpool’s to lose in my opinion. They have the best squad, the best manager and most of the best players in their respective positions. Quality usually shines through over a league season but if they do slip up more, Manchester United will be right there behind them.
For all of Solskjaer’s flaws, Manchester United ARE in a title race. Something is happening at Old Trafford.
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