Manchester United have made some really good strides in recent times, emerging as genuine Premier League title contenders, but the rising wave of optimism around Old Trafford was somewhat calmed by a chastening loss to local rivals, Manchester City in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.
That has been the story with United this season. They look great over a period of time, but a bad performance always seems to hover around the corner.
Take for instance, their UEFA Champions League campaign. The Red Devils made a sparkling start to the competition, beating PSG in Paris and taking out last year’s semi-finalists, RB Leipzig 5-0 at Old Trafford to move into pole position in their group, but they lost three of their next four matches to crash out of the competition.
To be fair, United have attained a level of consistency in the Premier League this season.
After a slow start to the campaign, Solskjaer’s men are now unbeaten in ten Premier League matches, winning eight and drawing two. Those two draws have been against fellow title rivals, City and Leicester.
With their recent run of good form, United have moved to the brink of the Premier League summit. They are level on points with table-toppers, Liverpool, having played a game less than the Premier League champions.
If the Red Devils avoid defeat in their game-in-hand at Burnley on January 12, they will go to Anfield five days later as Premier League leaders.
Liverpool and Manchester City are still the bookmakers’ favourites to win the league, but United are not too far behind. If you want to have a punt at the Red Devils, have a look at bet9ja for great betting features and options!
United’s Premier League form and results have given their fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but the fear is that the team will crack when it matters most.
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge of the team in December 2018, they have played in four semi-finals, and lost all of them.
Last season, they fell to Chelsea and City in domestic Cup semis (FA Cup and EFL Cup respectively), and were beaten by Sevilla in the last four of the Europa League.
Another defeat to City in this season’s EFL Cup semi-final only enhanced Solskjaer’s growing reputation as a nearly man.
United fans are naturally very demanding, and have been very critical of their team’s latest setback. The result was bad, but the performance was even worse.
The talismanic Bruno Fernandes had a rare bad game, while Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and other top players failed to rise to the occasion.
The “Ole Out” brigade, which had been quietened by United’s good results in previous weeks, was again out in full force to highlight the apparent deficiencies of the manager.
United fans are right to demand more from their team, but they must also put defeats like the one against City into context.
That was a City team that was coming off a fine 3-1 victory at Chelsea, playing their best football of the season. Not many teams can survive against Pep Guardiola’s men in the mood they have been in the last week.
United have had their shortcomings under Solskjaer, but there have been enough signs to suggest that the Norwegian is leading this team in the right direction. This is as close as they have been to a title challenge in years!
They have definitely made progress in Solskjaer’s tenure- United fans need to temper their expectations and exercise some patience.
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