At last!!! The attacking intent returned to Old Trafford last Saturday evening, another 4 goals which could easily have been more, the return of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and more importantly 3 points. This would have been curtains for the title race had Newcastle clung on to their early lead, especially after the City result earlier in the day, but United came roaring back, pulled along by the impressive Pogba. This week, Brighton travel to Manchester and the supporters will be asking for more of the same and hope this United is here to stay.
Not perfect, but at least more attacking
The game wasn’t perfect, certainly at the back they looked shaky at times and in attack it looked sometimes like it was more hustle and bustle rather than slick attacking play, but it was so much more entertaining than the dross of the past couple of months. Pogba certainly gave the side a more classy finish, strolling around the pitch, taking players on, picking out all ranges of passes to get the side ticking in the right areas. It would be interesting to know how much impact he would have had at Chelsea or Liverpool, would Mourinho have changed the formation had he had Pogba at his disposal? We may see the answer to that question next week when United travel to the Emirates, but for this week, I expect the same sort of line up to that of last week. Anthony Martial was once again breathtaking on the ball and surely now Mourinho can no longer leave him out of any games, his threat is just too great. Romelu Lukaku looked a lot more mobile and happy in this game, rounding it off with a goal that will hopefully kick-start him back on the goal trail. Marcus Rashford was excellent although what position he was playing was slightly baffling. In the first half I am sure he started on the right, but quickly seemed to switch almost into the number 10 role. He often was picking the ball up off of Nemanja Matic quite deep and starting the attacks alongside Pogba. Mourinho confirmed in his press conference that he was actually asked to play between Martial and Lukaku, slightly left of the number 10 role, but I actually think he could play that role quite well. He has the energy to support Lukaku for attacks, he has pace, skill and the desire to beat players and obviously an eye for goal. He maybe does lack in the passing department shown by his woeful pass to free Martial in the first half.
I am not naive enough to really think that this attacking, fluid formation will remain for the entire season, this is Jose Mourinho we are talking about. But, United still have some tough games to come before Christmas and they really cannot afford to drop too many more points at the top, so simply reverting back to the negative, park the bus routine against the top 6 may not be an option any longer. I cannot see anything but another high scoring and comfortable 3 points on Saturday, come on Jose, keep on attacking.
Another big game
Elsewhere on Saturday, Spurs welcome West Brom to Wembley before a huge game at Anfield, where Liverpool face Chelsea. I was as surprised as anyone with the result in the North London derby, I simply did not see Spurs getting beaten, but they were well and truly beaten. The big-name Arsenal players decided to turn up and they managed to nullify the Spurs big stars. They were helped hugely by what looked like a half fit Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but they still had to go out there and beat them. If only this Arsenal turned up at the Etihad a few weeks ago!! Spurs, however, pulled out another terrific display and result in midweek, beating Dortmund in their backyard which in turn secured top spot in their group, with a game to spare. It showed great character to bounce straight back and qualification will give the whole squad a boost going into the tough Christmas period. Managerless West Brom would have struggled with Tony Pulis in charge, but without him, I see it almost impossible for them to get anything here. The managerial merry go round is interesting as there are not any high-quality solutions available to any of the clubs looking. If Everton are struggling then West Brom certainly will. Maybe Chris Coleman should have waited a few more days!!
There seems to be a blockbuster game every week at the moment and the Liverpool v Chelsea game continues the run. As we all know, Jurgen Klopp possesses a luxury of attacking talent with goals and creativity all over the pitch, but at the back they remain woeful. The result in Seville could have been a lot worse had it seriously derailed their qualification hopes, but they should still qualify fairly easily. However, it will still annoy Klopp that the worries at the back remain, especially against the top sides, which Chelsea are. Antonio Conte seems to have got his side firing once more like the Champions. Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are pulling the strings and Alvaro Morata is the main beneficiary of this. The balance of the side looks much better than it did a few weeks ago and more importantly there seems to be more harmony in the camp. I see this being a high scoring game as Liverpool are hard for any defence to contain and Liverpool’s defence struggle to contain any attack, either way, one of these will drop points which can only be good news for United.
Away days on Sunday for Wenger and Pep
The top 6 is completed on Sunday afternoon when Arsenal travel north to Burnley and the leaders travel to Huddersfield. Arsenal were brilliant last week and will need to repeat that if they are to get anything at Burnley, who themselves are in a great run of form and surprisingly level on points with the Gunners. Burnley fans must be in dream world at the moment and have almost secured their Premier League status for another season and it isn’t even December. Obviously there is a big carrot dangling in front of Sean Dyche’s nose almost every week but so far he or, at least the Burnley board, have resisted and he continues to impress each week. If the Arsenal that turned it on against Spurs last weekend turn up at Turf Moor, then they should win, but that is the main problem with Arsenal, who turns up week in and week out seems to be a lottery so I wouldn’t be surprised if they get turned over also.
City travel to the ground where United picked up their first league defeat of the season, but I see no way that will be repeated against Pep Guardiola’s men. Another win in midweek whilst resting the majority of his side means they will be fresh going into this one and will easily see off Huddersfield. I honestly think this league campaign is over in terms of the title. City are already 8 points clear, the teams behind them are very inconsistent and they have already seen off Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. When United welcome City to Old Trafford in a few weeks time, they will more than likely still be 8 points adrift at best so there is huge pressure on them picking up 3 points. If they don’t then it really will be curtains.
I don’t see any change at the top this week and fully expect the top 3 to all win comfortably. Like I said, I unfortunately think United are playing for 2nd already but I really hope that I am proven wrong and the Christmas period derails Pep’s men.