Manchester United’s season has just gone from strength to strength in recent weeks. Six consecutive wins has seen the Red Devils cut the gap between themselves and table-toppers Chelsea to just 8 points. They are also only 5 points behind second-placed Manchester City.
Wayne Rooney has come out this week and said that he believes United can win the title. Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Liverpool made sure that the early-season wobble was well and truly behind them.
Louis Van Gaal didn’t have it all his way at the start of his United career. Two defeats in the first five games had fans dreading a relapse of last season, when the Red Devils finished a lowly 7th under David Moyes.
Now, it’s almost certain that they will finish in the Champions League places. The title too, is not an impossible dream.
Here are three reasons why Manchester United are title contenders this season:
1) The old confidence is back:
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, even when United didn’t have the best squad on paper, they instilled fear in their oppositions. Going to Old Trafford and getting a result was close to impossible. Over the last year, the most successful English club in history had lost that. Twelve defeats last season, including seven at home, was something unheard of at the club in recent history.
After a slightly shaky start this time around, the old swagger seems to be back. In Van Gaal, United have an experienced manager with an illustrious history, and the Dutchman’s methods are beginning to bear fruit. The squad has begun to take shape and the manager knows his best XI now.
2) The winning habit:
United have not been at their best in each of their last 6 games, but have managed to emerge with all three points in every one of them. Winning while not playing well is something that every potential champion must do, and is something Chelsea and Man City have both managed on a regular basis. Against Southampton a couple of weeks ago, United only had two shots on target, but scored with both of them, to win 2-1. This winning habit is one that dies hard, and if Van Gaal’s men are able to maintain their winning run through a busy December, they could be even closer to the top than they are now.
3) Key players returning to form + potential additions in January:
United’s title win in the 2012/13 was almost solely down to the form of striker Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman scored 26 times in the league that year as Sir Alex’s men coasted to the title. Van Persie though, wasn’t able to follow it up last season, and only netted 12 times. This time around though, the 31 year-old has started firing again. After a lukewarm start, Van Persie has scored thrice in the last two games to take his season’s tally to 7 in 15. The ever-consistent Wayne Rooney also has 6 goals, while Juan Mata has also returned to form. Summer signing Angel Di Maria has been absolutely superb. Even Marouane Fellaini, who was considered a flop signing last year, has come good recently.
Van Gaal though, has stated that his big summer spending is likely to followed by another spree in the January transfer window. There are certain issues which still need to be addressed, especially in defence. Of late though, United have looked better at the back than they did early on in the season. Names like Ron Vlaar and Mats Hummels have been mentioned as candidates to come in and shore up the backline.
There is no doubt that December is a very important month for United. Historically, the Red Devils have played very well in the second half of the season and 8 out of their 13 Premier League titles have come albeit not leading the pack at Christmas. The busy festive period which is coming up throws up some extremely winnable games for United and they will want to continue their good form in the race to catch Chelsea at the top.