Manchester United have endured a fairly slow start to the season. It remains very early days, but after six games, they currently find themselves in third place with a total of 12 points.
On the face of it, this situation doesn’t sound too bad.
But the Red Devils have already lost twice this season. Considering the fact that they failed to secure the title last season after slipping to just five defeats during the entirety of the previous campaign, this statistic may be more alarming than first anticipated.
So should Sir Alex Ferguson be concerned about his side’s start to the season?
As stated previously, the campaign is still very young, and there is plenty of time for United, or any team for that matter, to rise or fall in the domestic standings.
Nonetheless, this article takes an in-depth look at Manchester United’s start to the season, analyzing both sides of the story and discussing whether or not the team’s early-season form presents a cause for concern.
The case for – Manchester United should be concerned
It has already been acknowledged that United have lost two games out of six so far this season, a less than pleasing ratio by the club’s high standards.
This figure is made all the more concerning given that during their last five championship-winning seasons, United lost no more than five games on each occasion. Therefore, if they are hoping to secure a record-breaking 20th English top-flight title this time out, they can realistically afford to suffer no more than three defeats in the next 32 outings.
Of course, this is entirely achievable for a team of Manchester United’s experience and ability, but it will be no easy task. Particularly when one considers that they still have to face the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City both home and away this term.
That being said, they could of course suffer more than five defeats this year and still manage to win the league. But if history is anything to go by, such an outcome appears unlikely, especially when one considers the competitiveness of the English Premier League.
Another worrying factor is the defeats themselves, given United’s form of the past few years.
Though Everton and Tottenham are notoriously tricky opponents, Ferguson’s men have impressive records against both sides in recent history. They had previously lost just once against the Toffees in their last 14 league games, and were on a 22-domestic-game unbeaten run against Spurs prior to this season’s loss.
Thus, these defeats suggest a deterioration of quality at Manchester United. Were they merely bad days at the office for the Red Devils? Or is their superiority wavering due to improvements made by rival teams?
Either way, these points show that United’s early-season form may well be a bigger problem than first imagined.
The case against – There’s nothing really to worry about
Though one can argue that United have not put together the greatest start to the season, when one compares their opening six games to those of years gone by, the issue appears far less problematic.
In the 20 years since the inception of the Premier League, Manchester United have won more than 12 points in the opening six games on 10 different occasions. Of these 10 instances, they have only gone on to capitalise and win the league five times; just a 50 percent success rate.
Thus, it would appear that starting the season well is not necessarily the most important component of Manchester United’s title-winning seasons.
Additionally, United have won the league 12 times in those 20 years since the Premier League began. And seven times, therefore more often than not, they have secured these league championships having achieved 12 points or less from their opening six games.
So if history is anything to go by, kicking off the campaign with 12 points from a possible 18 is far from disastrous. In fact, it would appear to be part of the script, so to speak.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams have all been famed for their ability to perform at their best during the latter part of the season, and these statistics support that assertion.
Furthermore, though Chelsea are four points ahead of the Red Devils, city rivals Manchester City are also on 12 points, and they in fact have an inferior goal difference, while Arsenal find themselves a further three points behind.
So although United are not in pole position, they have by no means been left behind by the rest of the pack, and remain in a similar, if not better, position to that of their closest rivals for the title.
On this evidence, United’s stuttering start to the season is starting to look increasingly more manageable in the long run.
As you can see, there is plenty of reasoning behind both arguments, so what is the final verdict? Has United’s start to the season been poor? Or are they still on track to achieve their goal of winning an unprecedented 20th English league championship?
The answer to both questions is yes.
Ferguson’s side have started fairly poorly, and I’m sure they would have hoped and expected to have come away with at least a few points from the Everton and Tottenham games.
But Manchester United and their fans have no need to panic at this early stage.
They have a history of coming on strong in the second half of the season, a claim that is supported by the evidence assembled in this article. Therefore, one can expect them to fully recover from their sluggish start, enabling them to catch and even possibly overtake league leaders Chelsea.
With 32 games still to be played, anything can happen for United, though it would appear that the only way is up for England’s most successful domestic side.
For any other side with title aspirations, such a start may well be more of an issue.
But this is Manchester United that we’re talking about. 12 points from the opening six games is arguably just a part of the plan—a recipe for success that we have seen prevail in the past more often than not.
Comment below with your thoughts on this matter and your personal opinions regarding Manchester United's start to the Premier League campaign.