Ciaran Vance waxes lyrical on the ascent of Man United since the Premier League restart.
At around 6pm last night, a thought crossed my mind – one that hadn’t done so in at least the past couple of years. I realised that I was actually looking forward to watching Manchester United play.
In the six matches since English football resumed, United have won five. They drew the other, and have scored a combined 18 goals, conceding four. By beating Aston Villa 3-0 on Thursday night – barely manoeuvring out of second gear in the process – they became the first team to win by three goals in four successive games. More importantly, however, is how the team is slowly beginning to look and feel exciting again.
There is no denying that the Red Devils have been severely lacklustre at times since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and it is no stretch to say that Old Trafford’s “Theatre of Dreams” nickname has been up for dispute. However, the signing of Bruno Fernandes, the return of Paul Pogba, and the emergence of Mason Greenwood have completely revitalised this team.
United could win each of the four games left to play and yet still finish 22 points behind Liverpool, so a sense of reality must be retained. But that doesn’t mean that this season shouldn’t be defined as a success.
The club are still involved in the Europa League and FA Cup, and winning both would be a fantastic achievement. Combine this with the team finally having some kind of identity, and you would be hard pushed to find a United fan who, being realistic, wouldn’t have grabbed at those achievements at the start of the season.
In an interview posted on the club’s website before the Aston Villa match, Pogba said: “We’re never satisfied with one trophy, or one game we win, or two games, or 10 games; you want more, you always want more. That’s what makes Manchester United the biggest club, for me, in England.”
What remains a fact is that both Liverpool and Manchester City are still a level or two above United, and it would take a special effort to reclaim the Premier League title from either of them next season. If the rumours are to be believed, Jadon Sancho will be a Manchester United player next year, but there are still areas of the team that need to be strengthened. Another striker challenging for a space in that front three would certainly not be a bad thing, while a better standard of central defender alongside captain Harry Maguire would reinforce the defence.
Roy Keane is famously not the easiest man to please, but he summed it up during Thursday night’s Sky Sports coverage when he said: “United fans will be buzzing tonight, that’s what Man United’s all about: good attacking young players enjoying the game and hitting the back of the net.”
It may be a few years until Manchester United once again knock Liverpool – or Manchester City – off their perch. But the wheels are in motion and it’s important to enjoy watching the team while they’re in such good and entertaining form. It wasn’t too long ago that such enjoyment was unimaginable.
Follow Ciaran on Twitter at @ciaranmvance