United have now won six Premier League games in a row.
Believe it or not, Manchester United have scraped themselves up off the floor since being delivered what could’ve been a fatal sucker punch by Nigel Pearson and Jamie Vardy on THAT mild September afternoon in the East Midlands and, having won six Premier League games in a row, are threatening to be unlikely gatecrashers on Manchester City and Chelsea’s title race tea party.
The most striking thing about United’s form is just how much criticism they’ve received throughout it, with club legend Gary Neville even describing United as a pub team after they’d ground out an impressive win away at division surprise packages Southampton last week. Even a convincing 3-0 win over Liverpool was tempered slightly by the fact that David de Gea had been forced into performing like that robotic goalkeeper that only comedian Omid Djalili can score past.
The point is, though, that United have found that thing which is so lacking amongst all Premier League sides outside of the top two, perhaps even one – consistency. Many have suggested that the fact United are third, as well as the presence of Southampton and West Ham United in the top four at times this season, is a sign of a lack of quality in the division. It is not so much that as a lack of consistency.
Both Southampton and West Ham have done so well because, the Saints’ frustrating defeat at Burnley this weekend aside, they are generally good at beating the teams who aren’t a traditional top six or seven side. At worst they seem to pick up a point and, in a league that is split so distinctly into two halves, picking off the alsorans will quickly propel you up the table. United may have beaten Arsenal and Liverpool, but their ascent is proof of this.
The teams that are having disappointing seasons – Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton – are not lacking in quality, but lacking in the psychological desire to grind through a run of games like United have been able to show recently. All four, with the possible exception of a confusingly bad Liverpool, have looked really good on at least one occasion this season. But they have also dropped points in more than one game that Southampton and West Ham have been conquering.
United’s form may falter – there is certainly a logic that, if their performances don’t improve, their form cannot go on like this. But right now they are showing the quality that makes Chelsea such overwhelming title favourites in the eyes of almost everyone. The ability and desire to just keep on winning and not reflecting to worry about how they’re doing it. When Arsenal or Liverpool win a game without playing well, it seems as though they look back on it as if it was a defeat. United are refusing to flinch, eyes fixed straight ahead on the summit.