For what feels like the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have found themselves teetering on the edge of one of the most unlikely of title challenges. Ever since their home loss to Arsenal in early November, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have embarked on a run of ten games unbeaten (winning eight of them) and rising up to being level on points with Liverpool.
Don’t begin to dream yet, but Manchester United are certainly starting to look like the best of the rest in the 2020/21 Premier League.
However, there are still more reasons against than there are for to be thinking about Manchester United as champions-to-be this season. Here are five reasons why Manchester United WON’T win the 2020/21 Premier League.
Football is of course a results based industry, and fans really do live from matchday to matchday. During a stacked period of fixtures especially, it’s hard to cast your mind back a couple of months and remember that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a manager practically one wrong result against Everton away from being dismissed.
Whilst his list of achievements at United has been steadily growing, one of the most defining things about Ole’s reign at Old Trafford has been the lack of any real consistency with the team. United under Ole can go six games without a win, and then suddenly turn it on when the pressure begins to mount and romp to ten straight wins. Whilst these runs were the difference between Champions League and Europa League football last season, you need 38 games worth of consistency in order to maintain a title charge.
Liverpool have been far from vintage this season, but they have still only lost once this season, whereas United have already managed three times that amount so far. And when United aren’t on their winning runs with Ole at the wheel, it’s usually been a pretty torrid time for the Red Devils.
For those looking to bet on soccer and back United for the title, you should always be mindful that this United side does have a tendency to go through periods of huge instability.
The Bruno/Rashford Reliance
Obviously every football club on the planet has their respective talisman that they rely on, however Manchester United arguably take this much further than most with their over-reliance on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.
Rashford has racked up 7 goals and 4 assists in 16 appearances so far this season, whilst Bruno Fernandes is the side’s most creative talent with a whopping 11 goals and 7 assists so far; both of these are impressive tallies in themselves, but they are miles ahead of their nearest teammate, Edinson Cavani on 3 goals and 2 assists. Inconsistency is rife in this Manchester United squad, with pros such as Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba being some of the best examples of ‘hot or cold’ footballers in the Premier League right now.
Sides like Spurs have already felt the full force of what happens to their ambitions when some of their star players go down, and even the most optimistic of United fan would admit right now that an injury or drop in form to either of these players would be catastrophic to their title ambitions.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United were known as the best side in the world at utilising their full squad, with the likes of John O’Shea, Park Ji Sung, Darren Fletcher and co. all stepping up when needed, and that level of involvement is what United need to find this season to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.
And finally, perhaps most obvious of all: Manchester United’s defence.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City in particular have gone to great lengths to have their respective defences as their best assets, with Guardiola’s side in particular standing out this season with just 13 goals against and 7 clean sheets so far.
Despite what some Manchester United fans will try and tell you, their side does not have bad defenders at the club. Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof are all seasoned internationals and Axel Tuanzebe is an exciting youngster to potentially call upon, however the numbers don’t lie with how the side is currently structured: the defence is costing United points.
According to Understat, United have conceded -2.71 more goals than what they have been expected to concede, and their 24 goals against is the worst tally of any team currently in the top twelve places in the league.
Poor coaching and personality clashes seem to be the biggest issues at United, with Maguire and Lindelof constantly struggling alongside eachother. Eric Bailly looks as impressive as ever, however there’s next to no chance of keeping him fit for the bulk of the season so it remains to be seen how United will tackle their defensive issues.