MANCHESTER, England – Sir Alex Ferguson used to say the key to winning the title is staying in touch with the leaders until Christmas and then winning them in the second half of the season. For the first time since Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United did the first bit. A hectic 6-2 win over Leeds United At Old Trafford on Sunday United are in third place on Christmas Day this year, five points behind the leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t the type to get carried away, but for the first time in a long while United have at least made them part of the conversation. What comes next is the hard part and the journey to Leicester City on Boxing Day and visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers three days later will tell if they are the real deal.
“We’re a third of the season – we’re not even halfway there,” said Solskjaer, who celebrated two years in charge on Saturday. “The league position isn’t even something we’re looking at. Our fans needed this; they should have been here. Our players will go home tonight and sleep well. I think they’ve worked hard enough and maybe deserve one Lie.” in the.
“It was fantastic from the minute we arrived. We had a plan to run after them. We found a way to make them work. Imagine if there were 75,000 people here it would be one of Man United’s best performances been.” Leeds at home. “
At least Solskjaer can point to noticeable progress.
On Christmas Day last year United had just lost at Watford and fell 24 points behind Liverpool to eighth place in the table. Their highest league finish after Ferguson was runner-up in 2017/18 under Jose Mourinho, but on Christmas Day this season they were already 13 points behind the eventual champions Manchester City. Titles aren’t won or lost in the first half of the season and United have given themselves a chance.
After the games against Leicester and Wolves between Christmas and New Years, Solskjaer’s team will travel to Anfield on January 17th to face Liverpool. This could well be United’s biggest league game by then since Ferguson left more than seven years ago.
There are significant challenges to overcome before then, but Solskjaer can be grateful for this Christmas season. United tops the form table with 19 points out of the last 21 available points. Against Leeds, they solved two major issues, namely the failure to start the games quickly and a worrying run of home results by scoring two goals in the first three minutes and six in one for the first time since the 8-2 win League game scored arsenal in 2011.
Solskjaer admitted in the lead up to their first league game with Leeds since 2004 that Marcelo Bielsa’s easy-going style could match his team’s strengths and it was hard to argue with United 4-0 up 10 minutes before break. It was a day when almost everything went right.
Scott McTominay, selected in midfield Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek, became the first player to score in the Premier League within the first three minutes. Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof made it 4-0 after 37 minutes Liam Cooper got one back for the visitors. Daniel James, a surprising decision for his first start since October, scored his first league goal since August 2019 and Fernandes his second goal from the penalty spot shortly after the break Anthony Martial was overthrown. Stuart Dallas ‘got Leeds’ runner-up in 73 minutes and they would have had more if David De Gea hadn’t made a number of good saves.
The fact that the game ended with eight goals, 43 shots and 24 corners was a fair summary of a chaotic 90 minutes. Perhaps Solskjaer had shown his players Louis van Gaal’s comment that “all they did was defend with 10 men” in the Manchester derby. After six goals against Leeds for the second time in their history, United have scored 28 league goals this season – better than Liverpool and nine more than at the same time last season.
Aside from a few questionable defenses, Solskjaer’s only full-time concern was injuries that put McTominay and McTominay out of the way Luke Shaw.
“You have to earn the right to win it and it could have been 12-4,” said Solskjaer. “They know it will be hectic and hectic against them because whatever the result, they have a certain style. We have shown that we can get a fitter or stronger team. I see more and more of a Manchester United team I really enjoyed the two years and really enjoyed it today. We want a fit team to go to the end and they have been proving that lately. There are details that we need to work on and we will keep improving. “
Prove it against Leicester and even Solskjaer will have a hard time playing down United’s title chances.