Three reasons why Man United should be title favourites
Owen Fulda takes a look at three reasons why Manchester United should be genuine title contenders this season
1. The ineptitude of their rivals
After Manchester City had won their first four games without conceding a goal, some pundits were virtually crowning Manuel Pellegrini’s men as champions. But as is often the unpredictable nature of the Premier League they went and lost at home to West Ham United before being thumped 4-1 by Tottenham, thus being overtaken by local rivals Manchester United in the process. While City have suffered a spate of injuries that they really should have the strength in depth to cope with, United have a squad of relatively non-injury prone players. Although they lost Luke Shaw – who was in outstanding form – to a double fracture of the tibia, they have utility players such as Danny Blind to fill the void. City’s confidence is brittle and one defeat often brings another straight afterwards. Louis van Gaal however seems to be instilling his players with a mental toughness that will be important as the weeks go by. With Chelsea floundering at the foot of the table and Arsenal still not realistically on a level to challenge, this could be United’s year.
2. Their signings have hit the ground running
The form of Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay has seen a wave of enthusiasm wash over Old Trafford since the two youngsters pulled on the famous red shirt. Depay has displayed the flare that many United fans felt was missing last season and Martial’s clinical finishing at just 19-years-old has seen him compared with the legendary Thierry Henry. Add to that the solid starts made by Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian and the Red Devils have the look of potential champions. It should of course not be forgotten that the Premier League is a 38 game marathon rather a seven match sprint. It remains to be seen whether Martial and Depay will still perform to the same heights once the initial buzz dies down and defences start to work them out. But still van Gaal couldn’t have expected much more from two players who were relatively unknown outside of the leagues they were playing in last season. Credit must go to the manager and the scouting network for tracking them down and signing them, even if the amounts United ended up paying for them were fairly extortionate.
3. Keeping De Gea and the improved defence
The mysterious collapse of David de Gea’s transfer deadline day switch to Real Madrid has been a huge boost to the club. He’s the rock on which van Gaal can build his new defence. United have kept four clean sheets in seven games so far and de Gea has played a big role in those shutouts. His confidence spreads throughout the back four and Chris Smalling in particular has benefitted and made big strides forward this season. The fact that Luke Shaw will miss most of the season is a massive shame, but if there is a positive to be found, it’s that his injury will have strengthened his teammates’ resolve. When Arsenal lost Robert Pires to a cruciate knee ligament injury in 2002 they vowed to win the title for him, and they duly did. United are quietly getting on with the task in hand of winning games, almost under the radar. The rumours of players disliking van Gaal’s training methods have died down and harmony seems to have broken out at Old Trafford. Maybe it’s time to put your money on United to win the league before their odds get even shorter.