A month ago it would have been inconceivable to think Manchester United had any hope of finishing in the top four. The Red Devils had failed to beat any of the Premier League’s top teams and had lost comfortably, and embarrassingly, to Liverpool away and Spurs at home. But a change of manager offered renewed vigour in a side that had, aside from a couple of players, stopped performing for Jose Mourinho.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as interim manager has not only changed the way United are playing but the way players are thinking too. Tactically, he’s got the Old Trafford club playing in the attacking style it’s known for (instead of Mourinho’s pragmatic keep-ball) and has reinvigorated both the players and the fans.
The club’s win away at Spurs was a hard-fought match that saw the Red Devils record their best victory of the season, their first against the Premier League’s 2018-2019 frontrunners, and it underlined the change in the club’s fortunes. Set up to counterattack with pacey split strikers and a false nine, United were brilliant in the first half, catching Spurs’ two centre-backs out on a number of occasions, one of which led to Marcus Rashford’s goal.
When the London club changed formation in the second half it became a different story. Spurs closed the gaps United were exploiting in their defence by changing to three centre-backs and, in turn, began to find spaces behind United’s backline. That meant goalkeeper David De Gea was called upon to make a record 11 saves in a single half. But he wasn’t the only player to work tirelessly to keep United ahead: Victor Lindelof is beginning to come of age and his effort and desire to keep a clean sheet is another factor in this United team’s current renaissance.
With players like him starting to play to the level they’ve shown on the international stage, there’s every reason to believe that United can not only break into the top four but even challenge for the top three.
That ambition is in part down to the unfortunate injury befalling Spurs’ star striker Harry Kane which could keep him out for up to 11 crucial domestic and European matches and will inevitably hamper the club’s chances of challenging for the league title. It’s already seen them drop to 100/1 outsiders. Conversely, despite still being behind Arsenal in the league, the latest Premier League betting odds suggest United will pip the Gunners to a top-five finish. Such renewed optimism suggests they’ll be hot on Spurs’ heels too.
Man United finishing in the top three might be wishful thinking in some people’s minds but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got the team playing well again. Let’s not forget this squad of players – with few relevant additions – finished second last season. After a confidence-boosting win away from home against Spurs, the red side of Manchester has every reason to believe the team can triumph in its upcoming league games against Chelsea and Arsenal while giving Liverpool and Man City more closely fought matches when the reverse fixtures come around.