Time to Panic Yet? Manchester United Stuck in First Gear

Nick JohnstonCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2008

After five competitive matches this season, last year's English and European champions have just one win and three draws to their name and only four goals. Pundits and fans alike are unable to explain recent poor performances, but what's for sure is that this can't continue.

But is it time for United's fans to start worrying?

In short, no.

At this stage last season, United had drawn with Reading and Portsmouth, lost to Man City and beaten Spurs. Four games, five points and just two goals. Arsenal won eight of their first nine games last season, but finished third.

United then won another six in a row to move into second place after 10 games. Looking at the upcoming fixtures, there's no reason why this side can't win at least their next five games—Blackburn (A), West Brom (H), Everton (A), West Ham (H), Hull (H).

With Cristiano Ronaldo returning to full fitness (and hopefully top form), Berbatov spearheading the attack, and a solid defence, United are, on paper, at least as strong as last year's champions.

Tonight's League Cup match against Middlesborough comes at a good time as it provides a test of Ronaldo's fitness and should give a game to Nani and Anderson, because Giggs and Scholes won't last forever.

United have struggled so far, but I believe that they will pick up at least 13 points from their next five league games and pick up two wins against Celtic and one against Aalborg before facing Arsenal on Nov. 5. By then, the questions surrounding United's start will have been forgotten and United will be back where they belong.

United aren't favourites for the title this year, but it's far too soon to write them off. Second place is the lowest I can see this side finishing.