Manchester United might not have started the 2012-13 English Premier League season in the dynamic fashion that they had envisaged, but with a myriad of attacking talent and quality players, you get the feeling it won't take long for the Red Devils to hit top gear this season.
Who has been the Red Devils' best this season? Read on to find out the top five players from the season so far.
Note: All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
Kicking off our list is England international Michael Carrick, who's performances in central midfield so far this season for the Red Devils have been very strong.
United haven't been as strong in the middle of the pitch in recent years as they would have liked—perhaps because they are looking for the next Paul Scholes—and whilst Carrick isn't the solution to all their problems, the experienced midfielder has been solid throughout the year so far and has distributed the ball well right across the pitch.
Carrick has had excellent vision and distribution through the first three games and whilst the Red Devils are still lacking a physical presence in the middle of the pitch, he has filled the role well in tandem with Tom Cleverley. He hasn't turned the ball over so far this year—leading the team in both average passes per game as well as pass completion percentage.
Plenty of work still to do for Carrick, but if we're just talking about the first three games of the season, it's been a very solid start from the 31-year-old.
Hard to have Michael Carrick in here and not mention his counterpart in central midfield Tom Cleverley, who has filled the more typical box-to-box midfielder role well so far this year.
Cleverley's mobility and quick, precise passing game has been a helpful tool in attack for the Red Devils—as have his defensive skills, currently sitting second in the team for tackles per match.
Like Carrick, he too has an excellent pass completion percentage (92 percent) and sits second in the team for average passes per match.
His relationship with the veteran Carrick will be crucial for United's Premier League chances this season; so far it's been a solid start in my eyes and one that will continue to yield great rewards throughout the year.
Prior to the start of the Premier League season this year, I strongly advocated that Rafael da Silva should not be started at right-back for United this year—feeling that Phil Jones offered greater defensive stability and was simply a better player than Rafael.
But following on from his strong performances with Brazil at the 2012 London Olympics, the young defender has been superb for the Red Devils so far this year and for me, has been their best defender through the opening three matches.
Yes, he attacks sometimes when he probably should defend, and yes, he did make that shocker of a mistake against Southampton, but once you consider all that he brings to the team and their attack, the positives far outweigh the negatives for Rafael this year.
The 22-year-old currently sits top-two in the team for tackles and interceptions per game, but also for chances created, pass completion percentage and goals. He is becoming an invaluable asset in both attack and defense, and has solidified his position at right-back for the time being because of that.
Robin van Persie's transfer from Arsenal to Manchester United this summer was one of the most talked about, discussed and analyzed moves in the history of the Premier League. There was much scrutiny about how he would fit with Wayne Rooney, Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson and so Van Persie entered Old Trafford with a great deal of expectation surrounding him.
Through two games, Van Persie has silenced his critics—emphatically booting a hat-trick against Southampton that really, should have been four goals if he hadn't botched his penalty attempt. Those three goals added to his previous goal against Fulham giving him four for the season—and has established himself as one of the premier strikers in the league once more.
He is also averaging 1.3 chances created per game for his United teammates—proving that his addition to the Red Devils squad is one that will produce great reward this season. And with four goals in two matches, you'd have to say that those rewards are already starting to be seen.
But as good and exciting as Robin van Persie has been through the opening few games of the English Premier League, nobody has been greater at Manchester United this year than Shinji Kagawa—United's "other" transfer over the summer transfer window.
Kagawa has quickly become the heart and soul of United's attack—the driving force behind their creativity going-foward, and is thriving with quality players around him.
The Japanese international already has a goal this year, as well as an average of 1.7 chances created per match. He is completing his passes at a completion rate of over 90 percent and sits in the top few players at United for average match rating this year.
But those numbers aside, Kagawa has been United's best player because he has become their most important player this year. He has become their drive through the middle and could be the attacking spark that they were desperately missing last season in their attack.
Time will tell whether Ferguson's summer signing can win the Premier League title for United in his first year at the club, but at just 23 years of age, Kagawa no doubt has a bright future at Old Trafford. And if he continues to play as well as he has done to start this season, his name may echo around the Manchester club for several more seasons to come.
Who do you think has been Manchester United's best player so far this year?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre