3 Reasons Why Manchester United Can Win the Title This Season
Manchester United fans had gotten used to continued success over the past few decades, as legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson managed to guide the club to a remarkable 13 league titles from 1986-2013. However, since Ferguson departed after the Reds' 2013 title winning season, Manchester United has struggled to replicate the success they sustained throughout the previous three decades.
In the four seasons since their title run in 2013, Manchester United have failed to finish higher than 4th place, and they have already fired two managers during that time period (David Moyes and Louis van Gaal). However, last season the club hired an established manager in Jose Mourinho and made a record signing in Paul Pogba who helped lead the club to victories in both the League Cup and Europa League, although the club still finished in a disappointing 6th place in the league standings.
This year, Manchester United look to build off their 2016-17 season, and they have already started the season strong with 16 points from six matches. But can the Reds truly compete for a league title this season, or are they destined to finish the season in disappointment once again? Let's take a look at three reasons why Manchester United should be considered among the favorites to win it all.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan Is Back in Form
The emergence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan this season has been a huge boost for Manchester United, and it is one of the main reasons for the team's hot start to the season. Despite coming in on an expensive transfer from Dortmund last summer, Mkhitaryan struggled to make an impact in his first year at his new club, starting only 15 league matches, managing just 4 goals with 1 assist.
However, in his second season under Jose Mourinho, Mkhitaryan has finally began to find his old form from the Bundesliga. Mkhitaryan has started all six league games so far this year and has already put up 1 goal and 5 assists. His key passes per game has increased drastically (3.2 this season as compared to 1.2 last year) and his dribbles per game has also increased from 1.2 to 1.5. Mkhitaryan has a track record of being a star player in top level leagues, as he scored 11 goals with 15 assists and 2.7 key passes per game in his 2015-16 Bundesliga campaign for Dortmund. After a blip last season, it appears that Mkhitaryan is poised to bounce back and become the star player that he was in the German league.
Lukaku, Matic, and Lindelof, Oh My
In typical Manchester United fashion, the Reds made three major signings this summer by adding Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, and Victor Lindelof. Lukaku has been off to a flying start, as he has scored 6 goals in six league matches, and has scored an additional 3 goals in two UEFA Champions League appearances. Lukaku's goal scoring dominance adds an important dimension to this Manchester United team, as they only managed to score 54 goals in league play last season (8th-best in the league). It sounds crazy to say that a team that employed Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season needed better play from their strikers, but so far, it appears that adding Lukaku has been an upgrade.
After Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic was probably the club's second biggest acquisition of the offseason. Matic was an essential player in Chelsea's title winning season last year and his passing (7 assists and an 87.7% pass accuracy rate last season) will help Manchester control matches with their midfield. Meanwhile, Victor Lindelof (32 starts) anchored a back four for Benfica that only conceded 18 goals in league play last season, so he certainly has the potential to make a major impact for the Reds defense this season.
Defense Wins Championships
The addition of Lukaku and the reemergence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan should provide Manchester United with a major boost offensively, but is the team strong enough on defense to win the league title? Last season, they finished the year with only 29 goals conceded in league play, giving them the 2nd-best defense in the league, behind only Tottenham. The Reds return a very strong back four, which includes Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind, Eric Bailly, and Phil Jones.
All four of these players currently have a WhoScored.com rating over a 7.00, making them the highest rated defense in the league according to the site's metrics. The Reds have only conceded 2 goals in 6 games so far this season, and they look poised to be one of the top defensive teams in the league once again this season. The squad appears to have both the offensive and defensive talent necessary to win a league title, so if they reach their potential, Manchester United could be lifting the league trophy come the end of the season.