Manchester United is in second place but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still taking it slow.
The Red Devils got another result from a tricky Festive Fixture run, beating Wolves 1-0 on Marcus Rashford’s stoppage-time winner days after splitting the spoils with Leicester City.
United sits two points back of longtime rivals Liverpool just weeks from a trip to Anfield. It’ll be a tough one with Aston Villa at home on New Year’s Day, then Liverpool away on Jan. 17.
“We just focus on the next game,” Solskjaer said after the win. “I am very, very boring but we cannot get too far ahead of ourselves. We have got to a decent position at the moment but we’re not even halfway. That’s a long, long way to go.”
It is, of course, but why are we so unwilling to discuss United’s status as a Premier League title contender?
Is it simply down to the presupposition that Liverpool and Man City would be the lone contenders again, with Chelsea’s big buys maybe allowing them to shoehorn its way into the discussion?
Are we still allowing the ghosts of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Ryan Giggs, and Jose Mourinho — all very much alive, by the way — to join forces with the “boring” Solskjaer to color the way we view a team which has spent more than most and incredible talent on the pitch?
Or is it this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage exit combining with the semifinal losses in last season’s Europa League, League Cup, and FA Cup, falling in big spots to Sevilla, Man City, and Chelsea?
- Manchester United had the joint-most points of Project Restart, level with Man City, beating Leicester City on the final day to qualify for the UCL.
- The Red Devils also went unbeaten in the last five matches before the coronavirus pause, including wins away to Chelsea and home to Man City.
- They drew 12 times last season but their eight losses were the second-fewest.
Plus, the Red Devils basically went full Fergie Time on Tuesday, and if Solskjaer has done anything, he’s rammed the Sir Alex maxims down our throats.
You can imagine how often the players have heard them.
“We have won quite a few points towards the end of games and that is both a mental and physical aspect,” Solskjaer said. “We’ve got a group now that is more robust both mentally and physically. We have gone through some tough training periods, played loads of games and they are getting fitter and fitter. The fitter you are the more you can do. But mentally as well it gives you a boost knowing you can win games towards the end.”
So what will it take for more people to treat the Red Devils’ run with serious consideration?
Beating a traditional PL power would help a lot, especially given their home failures versus the proverbial “Big Six.” Man United has lost 6-1 to Spurs and 1-0 to Arsenal while drawing Man City and Chelsea 0-0. All of those were at home.
There will be no dodging the conversation if United ends Liverpool’s long run without a loss at Anfield, but even then the Red Devils’ second-half includes Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, and Man City away plus the champs’ visit to Anfield.
That’s almost too much to ask of anyone, but continuing to underestimate Manchester United? Do it at your own peril. And by peril, we mean you might look silly. You’re not in danger or anything.