Manchester United have started the new year in exactly the same way they ended the last. United played out an entertaining match against Aston Villa and ended up winning 2-1, courtesy of goals from Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes. While the win itself wasn’t that convincing, it sure was enough to take United up to 2nd in league, behind only Liverpool in goal difference. Here are five things we learnt from the match at Old Trafford:
Consistency is key
One of the biggest criticism of United last season and this season has been the inconsistency. However, Manchester United have turned a corner in that regards. A 10 match unbeaten streak, picking up 26 out of a possible 30 points have them at the top of the table, only behind Liverpool on goal difference. And its this sort of consistency towards the end of last season, which got them the 3rd place finish in the first place.
Best squad in the post-Ferguson era
United’s best finish in the Premier League since 2013 has been the 2nd place they achieved under Mourinho. Yet, everyone universally agrees that this is the best squad Manchester United had in the post-Ferguson era. United have able back-ups at every single position in the field. And it doesn’t harm that anyone coming in the team has stepped up and produced the goods. Apart from Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Maguire and Wan-Bissaka, nobody has managed to nail down their places in the line-up and for good reasons too. That is a headache Solskjaer will happily take.
Eric Bailly was outstanding
Eric Bailly started his 4th consecutive match for United yesterday. While that may not look or feel like that big a deal, but this is the first time he has done that since September, 2017. Bailly has pace, athleticism aplenty. And he feels like a perfect foil for Harry Maguire. But his biggest enemy is he himself. Bailly never gets a consistent run of games because of his injury problems. He was outstanding yesterday as well. His flying block right at he end of the match showed his commitment too. And one can only hope that he stays fit and carries on this rich vein of form. Because if there is a season where you need all your key players fit and firing, its this one.
De Gea has answered his critics
It’s not just this match, but over this entire season David De Gea has consistently been very solid. United made it clear in the beginning of the season that they are going to keep Dean Henderson at the club this summer to compete with De Gea this season. And De Gea has stepped up indeed to the challenge. He hasn’t made a single fatal mistake this season and that’s all you can ask for from a goalkeeper at a top club. In the face of adversary, De Gea has risen to a solid if not unspectacular form.
Togetherness is evident
If there is one thing that Solskjaer has done perfectly with this United squad, it’s to make them a close-knit unit. It was evident against Wolves too when United got the late winner. And once again, the same was seen at the final whistle at Old Trafford against Aston Villa. Everyone went straight to serenade Eric Bailly, who made a heroic block at the very end of the game, protecting the 3 points for the Red Devils. Even substitutes who didn’t even get to play joined the others. Aston Villa were no pushovers and their early season form has been outstanding to say the least. United had to work hard for this victory and that sentiment was echoed by the players at full time. These small things do matter over the course of the season.
Manchester United fans have every single right to think that they are in a title fight and the table will back them up. However, it’s only 16 matches into a season. A lot can happen over the next 22 matches and that is what makes league wins so sweet. United need to keep their head down and take one match at a time. As long as they continue to do that, there is no reason as to why United won’t be at the sharp end of the table come May.