Manchester United: 5 Reasons They Will Sit Atop the EPL Come Christmas
Despite their defensive issues, the Red Devils—like they have all season—displayed a cutting edge in attack and a slick control of the game in midfield.
With their away form swashbuckling at times and their home form inevitably set to improve, combined with the indifferent showings from their rivals, United are in with a good shout of topping the table earlier than usual.
Here are five reasons why fans should be optimistic of Manchester United sitting atop the Premier League by the end of December.
Javier Hernandez 2.0
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Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has been like a new player recently, with his recent form arriving at the perfect time for his team.
Having failed last season to emulate the impact of his first term at Manchester United—which yielded 20 goals in all competitions—Chicharito had fallen down the pecking order up front.
But after finally being given a chance this season by Sir Alex Ferguson, the 24-year-old striker is once again proving his worth.
A match-winning brace at home to Braga in the Champions League was followed up by another game-sealer in the league game with Chelsea.
Add to that another vital goal that almost gave United the win against Blues in the League Cup on Wednesday, and you have a striker on-form at the right moment, considering United's fixture list doesn't get much easier in the coming weeks.
After entertaining Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday, the Red Devils play four away games—including trips to Braga and Galatasaray.
So it's vital the team have as many goal-scoring options as possible, and with Hernandez hitting four in his last three games, the plethora of guaranteed goal-getters has arrived at the optimal period for United.
And considering his finishing is as good as his movement right now, the little Mexican looks set to net a few more match-winners, which could be key in thrusting his team to table-topping heights in the coming months.
Robin van Persie: The Difference
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Signed to make a difference, Robin van Persie looks like he'll do exactly that for Manchester United this season.
After all, he is the joint top scorer in the league so far and has scored nine goals and made five assists in 12 games for his team in all competitions.
Just like he showed in United's last league game against Chelsea, his stunning combination of intelligent, deceptive movement with classy, clinical, cultured finishing is enough to unlock any Premier League defence.
But as Sir Alex Ferguson himself said, van Persie will only get better as the season progresses.
Right now most of his goals have been thanks to individual brilliance, but as he spends more time in the lab at Carrington, devising new defence-splitting formulas with his attacking teammates, and becoming better acquainted with their movement, styles and preferred tactical runs, his goal ratio will unassailably rocket.
And the Arsenal game aside, the impending fixtures for United could become a van Persie goal fest.
The Red Devils' next two league matches after the clash with the Gunners are against Villa and Norwich, with the Dutch striker having scored five in nine games against the Villans and four in three against the Canaries.
Signed to make a difference with his goals, just like the in-form Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie is perfectly poised to net the match-winners for his team.
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Manchester United may be plagued with defensive difficulties this season, but at the other end the forwards have been a chart-topping success.
The Red Devils have scored 24 goals this term, the most in the Premier League.
It's the strikers who've contributed most, netting 12 and setting up a further nine, currently making them the best strike force in the league.
And its not just Robin van Persie racking them up for United—Wayne Rooney has effectively created a goal a game with two goals and four assists from six league matches.
Javier Hernandez has two goals and an assist from just 160 minutes of league action, and Danny Welbeck has also been key with a goal, an assist and the best passing success rate of any striker in the league.
Add to that a burgeoning Shinji Kagawa, who has two goals and an assist, and guaranteed assist-making wingers like Antonio Valencia (who has three assists so far in the league and 14 key passes), and it's clear the team will have no problems going forward.
Their defensive issues, certainly at Old Trafford, will cost undoubtedly United more points this season.
But if their attack continues in its rich vein of form, the tactical movement, slick interplay, clever passing and classy finishing of the Reds' front line could easily see the team catapult to the top of the table before long.
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Summer signings Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa have so far turned out to be great successes, in more ways than one.
Besides van Persie's clever movement, good interplay and stellar finishing, and Kagawa's visionary playmaking ability, adding the duo to the team has given manager Sir Alex Ferguson a lot of tactical flexibility.
Last season United's two-dimensional attack yielded a good number of goals, but often failed to make the difference when it really mattered.
This term Sir Alex has doubled his dimensions up front, toying with various attacking set-ups and playing his strikers in many different roles.
Wayne Rooney for example has been able to play both deeper and further upfield in games, playing support man to van Persie, a main man ahead of Kagawa and link-up guy with Javier Hernandez.
While Chicharito has also played both the Ruud van Nistelrooy-esque poacher this season—allowing van Persie to play the "false nine"—he has also been the wide man in a front three willing to run the channels, creating space for the likes of Rooney to make the key pass for van Persie or have a shot on goal.
Then there's Shinji Kagawa, who's had both his roles at Borussia Dortmund (left winger and trequartista) utilised in a variety of formations.
The Japan star has played the Santi Cazorla-style "false winger," interlinking with Rooney to free van Persie, as well as being the link man between midfield and attack.
The multipositional strike force at Sir Alex's disposal has given United a new edge to their attack, thrusting them to the top of the scoring charts with its unpredictable nature and difficulty to second-guess.
And the fact they don't even need their traditional wingers at times—with only one of Antonio Valencia, Nani or Ashley Young usually playing—shows just how flexible they can be in attack.
Title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City like United have a free-flowing, creative style going forward, but what could separate the Red Devils from the rest in the coming months is their tactical flexibility and goal-scoring options across the front line.
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The Manchester United squad has more Premier League winners' medals between them than any other team in the league.
Their manager has won the most Premier League titles in history, and overall the side boasts some of the most experienced winners in the sport.
If there's one thing that will serve United well in the coming months, it's the experience of their manager and players, especially seen as title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City are entering uncharted territory.
The Blues are going into this season as Champions League winners for the first time, while City go in as Premier League champions for the first time—meaning both are being hunted at a greater intensity than United.
Despite having two players sent off, it could be said Chelsea failed their first real test of the season as they lost 3-2 at home to United, while City have often limped to wins against lower-ranked teams and also have arguably failed their first tests this term, failing to beat both Liverpool and Arsenal.
Of course United themselves haven't been much better, especially in defence, but wins away to Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United show the team have the attacking talent and crucially the experience needed to win big matches.
More big tests await in a home game with Arsenal on Saturday and a crunch clash away to Manchester City in just over a month's time, but if there's one thing which could see Manchester United through in those games and overtake their rivals come Christmas, it's the fact they've been there and done that well before the rest.