It’s 2021 and as we enter a mini cup hiatus, Manchester United can now reflect on the positives. In the aftermath of the abject surrender in the Champions League, United have picked up a series of wins that have allowed fans to tentatively look forward with optimism for the remainder of the domestic campaign.
However, we have seen this film before. The team go on a run of wins in the league and it all comes to a crashing halt. Consistency has been a key ingredient that has been missing over the past couple of years and if ever there was a time to reverse that pattern, now is the moment.
The title-race this year is wide open. City and Liverpool look way off the form that has carried them to success in recent years. The door is ajar for the teams around them to mount a challenge and United are well positioned to have their say.
Bruno Fernandes has been tearing up the league and his stats are jaw-dropping, but therein lies an uncomfortable truth. United are hugely dependant on his output and were Bruno to pick an enforced period of absence through injury, you have got to wonder how this creativity would be replaced. Recent wins, excluding Leeds, have been by small margins and Bruno has had an important influence in the run of current good form.
The next couple of weeks will be a key indicator for the trajectory of Manchester United this season. There must be a temptation to rest Bruno however my sense is this won’t happen until possibly the FA Cup tie versus Watford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be acutely aware that United have failed in three semi-finals in a row and a fourth would just serve to underline the lack of silverware in recent seasons under his tenure. It would also be a huge jolt in confidence at a time when league form has improved immeasurably.
However, there are doubts about the strength of team City will be able to field on Wednesday. That coupled with their indifferent form of late must mean that United have a fantastic opportunity to get the semi-final ‘monkey of their back’ and go into the re-arranged league fixture with Burnley full of confidence to consolidate a strong league position ahead of the eagerly anticipated showdown at Anfield.
Now is the time for Manchester United to press home the advantage. Now is the time to begin to consign the years of wilderness to the past and to usher in a new era built on the fundamental Manchester United principles of trusting youth to produce entertaining attacking football. We are about to learn a lot about the relative strength and mentality of this team. It’s a new year and time for this crop of United players to seize the day!