After winning Leeds 6-2, Man Utd was brought to the cloud. Former captain Roy Keane said the old team was only inferior to Liverpool. Gary Neville likened Scott McTominay to his former teammate Paul Scholes. Former Man City defender, now BBC commentator Micah Richards advised “Reds” to take into account the ability to compete for the championship. Even the insider, coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also admitted, his team could score twice as many goals and beat the opponent with the score 12-4.
The belief of Man Utd people has basis. Since Alex Ferguson’s retirement, the Old Trafford owner has never been so fiercely chased before Christmas. The closest they have had in the past seven seasons, was when David Moyes took power in 2013. At that time, the red shirt team was eight points behind the top team but all in eighth place. In the 2017-2018 season, under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Man Utd had the best position – second. However, the 13-point gap with Man City is almost impossible to level, especially when the “Red Devils” have just fallen in the Manchester derby.
This season, Man Utd is ranked third, but it is possible to jump to second place if winning a match. The gap with the top team Liverpool will likely decrease from five to two points before the two sides face off on January 17. More importantly, signals about a charming “Red Devil” were coming. They have scored 28 goals in 13 rounds, just behind defending champions Liverpool, and have just erased the almost only shortcoming from the start of the season – having good results at home.
If there are doubts about the revival of Man Utd, the feet of Solskjaer students will replace the Norwegian teacher. In the win over Leeds, even with only 41% possession of the ball, the home team moved the total distance 110.21km, far ahead of the loss against Tottenham (100.23km), Crystal Palace (105.48km) and Arsenal (106, 67km). If before, the counter-attacking team was always defaulted to cluster kicks, hold positions, and move mainly to fill holes, “Red Devils” now tell the opposite story. They run on the same level with the most energetic team in the Premier League, counterattack no less than Liverpool, and are ready to score from many positions like Man City.
Solskjaer’s boldness makes changes. Micah Richards commented: “Many teams when they meet Leeds will actively defend and wait for their opponents to attack. Man Utd is different. They always fix the three high speed attackers above – Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Daniel James Every time Man Utd gets on the ball, the midfield of Leeds is easily left behind Kalvin Phillips, one of the best midfielder in the Premier League right now, is overwhelmed. I go back to three every time I go back “.
Solskjaer was in fact richer in calculations from the draw of Man City. At that time, Man Utd just dropped out of the Champions League. They are under pressure from all sides, but not foolishly rushing up like a burnt ones. “It couldn’t be seen as a negative performance,” Richards continued. “One point against an equal number of opponents has never been considered bad. Solskjaer wants to withdraw, before kicking off in easy wins and forced to win like Leeds”.
Leeds once made Liverpool struggle to win three points on the opening day of the new season. But their innocent, open-minded kicks become a good prey for a pure Man Utd counterattack. Including the victory over Leeds on the evening of December 20, Solskjaer teachers and students won an average of 2.11 points per match when holding the ball below 50%. That statistic is even better than Mourinho, the coach is considered a pragmatic master but only wins an average of 1.65 points with Man Utd when the team holds the ball below 50%. When holding the ball over 50%, Man Utd of Solskjaer is worse than his predecessor. They averaged only 1.71 points compared to 1.97 like Mourinho’s time.
Five months after finishing the 2019-2020 season in third place, Man Utd returned to this “seat”, but with a completely different mindset. Instead of a 33-point difference, they are now only five. “Like it or not, Man Utd will still be listed in the list of champions,” commented Sky Sports. The problem is that the red half of Manchester has never been able to guarantee it until the end of the season because the gap between them and the top team, the post-Alex Ferguson period, has always been deepened after Christmas. Four of the last seven seasons, the gap has increased by more than 10 points. The two best seasons Man Utd were chasing, 2015-2016 and 2017-2018, they were left behind by six points.