Title challengers or also-rans? Manchester United face a turning point this week
Results elsewhere early this week are playing right into Manchester United’s hands.
Chelsea lost to Wolves last night while Manchester City dropped points against West Brom – thanks to a solid performance from ex-United stopper Sam Johnstone.
Meanwhile Liverpool take on Tottenham, so at least one of them will drop points too.
United are currently five points off the top with a game in hand. We can go four points ahead of City, and overtake Chelsea with a win this week.
The first test is against Sheffield United, away from home on Thursday night.
The Blades have just one point all season due to an alarming collapse in form.
Nobody at United should be taking this game easy.
These are the types of situations where Solskjaer’s United dropped points last season, when teams around us slipped up, we failed to take advantage – frequently in Chelsea’s case until the end.
Only three points will do at Bramall Lane on Thursday. There are no if’s, no but’s, Solskjaer’s Red Devils have to turn up.
Our strong away form suggests we might. But no game is a gimme, as Liverpool showed against Fulham at the weekend, scraping a draw.
If United fail to win against Sheffield United, fans will rightly feel sick.
This will be Solskjaer’s inconsistent and at times sloppy United at their very worst.
Last season it became expected. This year we need to have moved past this.
It is time for United to show progress, and this means winning away on Thursday night and taking advantage of rivals’ slip ups.
Until then, we can’t really get ahead of ourselves and point questions at Frank Lampard and Pep Guardiola and ask why they are not being criticised by the media and Solskjaer is.
A win however, will expose some of the media hypocrisy towards the United boss and show we are on track, and ahead of other teams whose managers appear immune from criticism.
A turning point which must also be followed up
If United’s ambition is to finish in the top four this season then a win on Thursday will help.
If the real ambition is to compete to win the title, and we should be, then United have to follow up an away win at Sheffield United with a victory over Leeds on Sunday.
Beating two teams who were in the Championship when Solskjaer was appointed boss sounds simply, but nobody at United expects it to be, such is the inconsistent nature of his team.
These two fixtures give him a chance to change that perception, while also helping to turn around our poor home form on Sunday, against a unique but flawed Leeds side.
Two wins and Manchester United can shown they have grown under Solskjaer, and are at least in the mix for the title race.
Following up an away win with anything less than a point against Leeds would be a disappointment. United have to win both.
Failure to get six points will show not much has changed. United will remain near the top four and might get into it, but a title challenge will be let down by inconsistency when it matters. The term ‘also-rans’ will be an apt description.
Let’s see if the players can step up and produce, and earn the status of title challengers.
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