Manchester United are justifying their tag as one of the favourites for the Premier League title. The Reds are still unbeaten, having dropped only two points in their first seven outings, and are locked with fierce rivals Manchester City at the top of the table.
With their Champions League campaign having also got off to a flying start, the omens look good for Jose Mourinho’s charges. Here are five reasons why United supporters can look forward to the rest of the season with relish.
Romelu Lukaku’s predatory instinct
Jose Mourinho had identified the Belgian striker as his top transfer target last summer and managed to snare him from the clutches of reigning champions Chelsea. Even by today’s standards the fee of £75 million that United paid Everton was steep, but Lukaku has already begun to repay it.
He has netted 10 times for United in all competitions this season, at a goal every 81 minutes, and looks certain to challenge the likes of Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero for the Golden Boot. Lukaku has provided the ruthlessness in front of goal that United lacked at times last season.
Solid defence underpins attacking riches
As well as averaging three goals per game in the Premier League, United are also boasting the joint meanest defence. David de Gea has kept six clean sheets from seven games, with the only goals he has conceded coming in the 2-2 draw away to Stoke City.
With a solid back four in front of him, which includes a rejuvenated Phil Jones, United look extremely reliable at the back. All the riches they have in attack would count for nothing if they were regularly shipping goals. Mourinho’s most successful teams have been built on solid foundations and he has a trustworthy back line at his disposal.
Inconsistent home form has been banished
United’s record at Old Trafford last season was arguably the reason they finished sixth. Among their results at home were draws against the likes of Swansea City, Burnley, Bournemouth and Hull City. Although it is still early days, United appear to have returned to their dominant best at the Theatre of Dreams. Four games in, they still have a perfect record.
The manner of their victories has been impressive, too. Three have been by a four-goal margin. Whereas last season they struggled to put games to bed, now they are steamrolling the opposition in merciless fashion.
Jose Mourinho has regained his aura
At times last season, the Portuguese looked disinterested. Despite having always coveted the United hot-seat, Mourinho did not appear to be enjoying his first season in charge. The pressure of managing on of the biggest clubs in the world seemed to be getting to him.
But victory in the Europa League final ensured that United would be playing Champions League football, and since then his demeanour has vastly improved. Looking relaxed and assured, the old Mourinho is back and his reputation, which took a hit at Chelsea, has been restored. This can only be a good sign for United supporters.
Marcus Rashford’s unlimited potential
One of the brightest young prospects in English football, Rashford has established himself this season. Holding down a place in the United starting XI is no mean feat, but the 19-year-old has achieved that through the high standard of his performances. Providing goals and assists, Rashford has come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months.
Now an England regular, the versatile youngster is a real fans’ favourite. The United faithful like nothing more than cheering on one of their own and in Rashford, who was born in Manchester, they have a new cult hero to worship.
Does Tottenham’s reported Alassane Plea swoop suggest Anthony Martial pursuit is over?
Does this new pursuit suggest Tottenham are finished with the Manchester United man?
Tottenham have opened negotiations for OGC Nice forward Alassane Plea with an offer of around 25 million euros (£21.9m), as Mauricio Pochettino looks to bolster the supply line to 41-goal man Harry Kane, according to reports from Foot Mercato.
The 25-year-old striker stood out this season for the Ligue 1 outfit, bagging an impressive 21 goals and seven assists in 49 appearances for a stuttering side, and the Spurs boss has decided he could be the man to diversify the attack at White Hart Lane next term.
Anthony Martial was originally touted as high on the list 0f the Argentine’s targets last month, according to London Evening Standard, but it appears that, after failing to gather any traction in negotiations for the Frenchman, the Lilywhites could have ended all hope of landing his signature.
Both players employ a similar play-style, using their speed and attacking intelligence to trouble defences with runs in-behind, and it seems unlikely Pochettino would try to land both this summer, given previous financial restrictions in recent years.
The most likely outcome is that Spurs have decided that financially, the pursuit of Martial isn’t worth what Manchester United are demanding – the Mirror having reported that the Red Devils have slapped a £75 million price-tag on the 22-year-old – and Alassane Plea is a secondary target.
Manchester United World Cup round-up: David De Gea bounces back for Spain
As one of the world’s biggest clubs, it is no surprise to see a host of names linked to Manchester United in action at the biggest stage in the form of the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Only one current player was in action on Wednesday, goalkeeper David de Gea, but he was joined in action by ex-players and transfer targets.
The Player: David de Gea (Spain)
After a humiliating mistake earned some harsh critics from Spain, David de Gea bounced back by getting his first clean sheet of the World Cup for the Spaniards against Iran in a 1-0 win.
It was perhaps not as quiet an evening as the goalkeeper may have been hoping for and he did look a little nervous early on, but he settled into the game and looked more like his composed and confident self as the game went on.
A clean sheet will give him renewed belief after two consecutive mistakes in a friendly against Switzerland and the World Cup opener against Portugal.
The Ex-Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
It was an ex-Red Devil who capitalised on De Gea’s error in the opening round of World Cup games, and Cristiano Ronaldo added a fourth World Cup goal to ensure he remains on top spot of the goalscoring charts.
That came in another 1-0 win, for Portugal against Morocco, as he powered home a powerful header in just the fourth minute to put his team into pole position and see out their first win of the campaign.
Whilst many of his team-mates struggled and looked lacklustre at times, no-one can question the unbelievable quality of the Real Madrid player.
The Transfer Target: Jose Gimenez (Uruguay)
It now looks unlikely that Jose Gimenez will move to Old Trafford after signing a new long-term deal with Atletico Madrid, but the Express reported that the club were considering a move for him this summer after months of links.
The young central defender lined up alongside club team-mate Diego Godin for Uruguay in the heart of defence against Saudi Arabia and enjoyed a comfortable afternoon as Saudi Arabia struggled to really threaten.
England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics
England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments
Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.
The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.
“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.
And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.
The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.
The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.