Will it be Manchester United's season this year?
Ashley Young scores two clinical goals to lead Manchester United to a hard-fought 4-2 away win against a tough Watford side and then claims the Man of the Match award…
The last time Young scored was the last day of the 2015/16 season, in an emphatic 3-1 win against Bournemouth. Recently, the wing-back has been restored into the starting team after some lengthy periods on the side-line. Now, he has proven his worth by guiding Manchester United to 2nd in the table.
Although City crucially have a game in hand, the Red Devils are only five points behind Pep Guardiola’s side, a team that is easily defeating Premier League opposition. They are much applauded for their fluency, their attack-minded style of play and their often-dazzling displays.
Not long ago, United were neck-to-neck with Manchester City on points. And now, they’re starting to find their feet again in pursuit of Manchester City. Part of United’s blip in form is due to the injury of midfield maestro, Paul Pogba, who is critical to United’s style of play.
While the Frenchman was out of action due to injury, United looked void of creativity and lacked tempo in their games. However, his recent return sees him playing in the heart of midfield, constantly creating attacking opportunities and displaying leadership throughout.
The Frenchman is key in midfield, but United fans have further reasons to be optimistic with the return of the Zlatan Ibrahimović. The footballing icon was Manchester United’s top scorer last season before succumbing to a serious ACL injury. During that time his one year contract expired and he was let go for a free transfer, but United decided to purchase him back after examining his state of injury. With his motivational mindset, he incredibly returned to the field of play in under seven months, and United’s gamble proved to have paid off.
The 36-year old is known for his arrogant yet confident character on and off the pitch, however, he is certainly someone you’d prefer playing with rather than against.
Are United in contention for the Premier League title? I certainly believe so. But the future for United looks bleak. Manchester City’s swashbuckling style of play continues to heap pressure on United. Much has been said for United to go on the attack, rather than sit deep on the defence. United boss Jose Mourinho is often criticised for his pragmatic footballing style. When faced with difficult opposition, he often employs more defensive tactics, now more commonly regarded as “Parking the Bus.”
The most classical example is United’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the League this season where United were criticised for not going for the win. One would expect United to have exploited Liverpool’s defensive frailties in that match, considering the attacking quality United possess in their squad.
Two pivotal Premier League matches await United in a fortnight. First, they travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal, before facing Manchester City at Old Traford a week later. United cannot afford any more slip-ups, especially with the form the City are in and the next two matches could be the defining matches for United.
Arsenal will pose a big hurdle for United. Will United sit deep to secure a point, regardless of outside pressure? Much focus will be on this matter. The following match is the defining moment of the season. A defeat against Manchester City will certainly leave a mountain for United to climb, while the former will probably have the Premier League trophy firmly in their sights if they attain the win.
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