Let’s rewind seven months.
It’s May. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and David Moyes is beginning his tenure in charge of England’s biggest club.
Now, let’s fast-forward a few months. May turns to June, June to July and etcetera.
There’s a loss to the powerhouse known as the Singha All-Stars in Bangkok. There’s the 4-1 shellacking at the hands of City, and the 2-1 embarrassment against West Brom, leaving many questioning Moyes’ legitimacy in the claim to the Sir Alex’s throne.
Despite the tumultuous start, United find themselves in a position that is quite favorable. The sputtering Red Devils currently sit three points out of second place, which is plenty fortunate for a team that’s play has been lackluster, to say the least.
However, this weekend marks a major test for the reigning champions, as a matchup with league leaders Arsenal looms in what could be a turning point of United’s season.
What will be the result of United's clash with Arsenal?
The season is still young, don’t get me wrong. However, if United are looking to shake the early-season monkey off of their back, an impressive performance against the Gunners is a must.
The importance of this fixture is not lost upon United’s leaders, as both Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand have spoken publicly on the opposition.
On one hand, there’s Ferdinand, who, according to Metro.co.uk, addressed United’s shortcomings, Arsenal’s talent and what the Red Devils will need to do to knock off their opponents:
I don’t think we’ve shown ourselves this season on a consistent basis, [and] not just in the big games. It is time to start putting our foot on the pedal now and motor on. We have to do that if we want to remain in contention to win the league. To do that, we have to get points on the board and that’s what we are aiming to do. Arsenal are in a good vein of form at the moment. They had a good performance against Liverpool. They are the team to catch. We have to make sure we are right and ready for the challenge.
“We have to win every game. It doesn’t matter what game it is or whoever we play against,” added Ferdinand. “Whether it’s a top of the league team or not, we have to get points. Nothing changes – we expect to win every game we play at home.”
On the other hand, there’s Wayne Rooney, whose comments are concerning from a United standpoint. While Ferdinand respectively addressed the opposition while discussing United’s own mindset, Rooney used the media to cast doubt over Arsenal’s legitimacy, according to BBC.
"We've seen before that they've been in the top two until February or March and then faded away," said Rooney. "They are doing brilliantly at the minute, so it's down to them to try and stay there and us to catch them. We'll have to wait and see where Arsenal are in March."
Rooney’s attack on Arsenal is worrying, as United’s focus at this point should be purely on themselves. For a player who’s club has dropped all three points to West Brom, Rooney doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to doubting someone’s legitimacy. Despite last season’s successes, Rooney is in no position to doubt the juggernaut that is the 2013-14 Gunners.
With that being said, United’s focus, at this point in their campaign, should be purely on United. Despite their shortcomings, the reigning champions find themselves within striking distance of contention, which is really all that can be asked for this early in the season.
However, focus is imperative, as this club is in for an uphill climb in the always-competitive Premier League. If United hope to reach the summit, they will have to take this one step at a time, as worrying about those already at the top of the mountain is of little concern until you reach the peak yourself.
Are United title contenders this season, or is their time at the top dwindling? Have your say with a comment below or tweet @R_Tolmich!