United dominate opposition after years in doldrums

Manchester United totally bossed the game with 28 shots 10 on-target against 3rd placed Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur who were also 6-points ahead. Casemiro, Eriksen or Fred, and Fernandes have given United the impetus to dictate the game and set the tempo. Brazilian duo Casemiro and Fred battled against Spurs while Eriksen was brought back in to partner Casemiro after being unwell to totally outclass Chelsea in the first half at Stamford Bridge yesterday to draw 1-1. United for their dominance should have at least scored one goal in 1st half from three clear cut chances created. Casemiro's imperious header sealed a point in 3rd minute of injury time after going behind in 87th minute through a penalty clumsily given away by McTominay. Scotsman's strike in injury time was enough to beat Omonia Nicosia 1-0 in Europa League. It was United's first injury time winner in European competition since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's stunning goal to win the 1999 Champions' League over Bayern Munich. Fergie time is back in the reckoning!

Erik ten Hag has clearly brought back team spirit and sense of purpose with a clear vision of how to play. He has now demonstrated the complete 'control' of footballing side of the club, a trait as outlined by Sir Alex Ferguson as the most important inorder to restore the club back to its glory days. David de Gea has started to come off the blocks to stop opponents from creating a chance while Luke Shaw is re-energised creating a healthy competition with Tyrell Malacia. Diogo Dalot is a constant presense with his keen footballing brain while Lisandro Martinez adds street-fighter mentality missing since Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic days. Raphaeal Varane is able to balance the unit by organising it to face the threats like a leader by accelerating at key stages to clear the danger that Harry Maguire has not been able to in recent past. Defense has provided a strong foundation and now midfield is starting to dominate and create chances but the Forward line has yet to click to convert the dominance into easy victories.

Four games in nine days: 1-0 over Nicosia at home, 0-0 vs Newcastle at home, 2-0 at home to Tottenham and 1-1 away at Chelsea. Cristiano Ronaldo started in first two games, refused to come on as a sub in the game against Spurs in a clear case of misjudjement on his part, and was rightly suspended by the club for the match against Chelsea. This explosive incident did not disturb the cohesion in the dressing room and the togetherness of the squad was on display in the reaction to scoring the equaliser in injury time. Ronaldo unsettled, Martial often injured, Greenwood remains suspended; this leaves Marcus Rashford as the only fit and proper centre-forward. Anthony Elanga was preferred by Rangnick came on as a sub against Chelsea while Alejandro Garnacho was on the bench but unused as his contract talks have not progressed. United need to play three more games before the World Cup and a further 24 games in English Premier League has to be played after the event in Qatar. United should not be in such a precarious position in the forward department.

United board are constrained by the excess spent of £20 million each on the Ajax duo Martinez and Anthony that will hamper efforts to buy a top striker in January like Victor Osimhen. Osimhen will not leave Napoli in the middle of the season especially when they are on top of Serie A and top of their group in Champions' League including Ajax against whom they scored 10 goals in two games! Joao Felix at Atletico Madrid is not getting enough game time this season due to presence of Greizemann and Morata but Felix is more of a second striker than an out and out striker with a price north of £65 million. Rafael Leao of AC Milan has to be ruled out as he predominantly plays off the left of front three or on left wing. Christopher Nkunku of RB Leipzig appears to have agreed to join Chelsea next summer. Benjamin Sesko of RB Salzburg remains a promising option aged only 19 which rules him out from being a first team starter in case of injury to Rashford. Jonathan David of Lille is on an upward steady trajectory in last three seasons and carries major goal scoring responsibility for his team. Part of the squad that qualified for World Cup with Canada as winners of their group and scored 9 goals. Approx £40 million is the valuation for both Jonathan David and Ivan Toney; the former looks slightly better prospect than Ivan Toney, 26 of Brentford who already plays in Premier League with a call up for England National team recently.

United must sign either Jonathan David or Ivan Toney in January transfer window else risk losing top four and repeat last season's mistake when Ralf Rangnick was not allowed to sign a striker as Greenwood was initally suspended late in the window and wantaway Anthony Martial was loaned to Sevilla. Rangnick alerted United to availability of Dusan Vlahovic, Christopher Nkunku, Darwin Nunez, Julian Alvarez. United lost last six away matches to finish 13 points adrift of 4th place scoring only two goals. As Rashford emerged under Louis van Gaal, Mason Greenwood under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Anthony Elanga under Ralf Rangnick, the fans were expecting to see Alejandro Garnacho promoted. The Argentinian was part of 33-man squad in March, 2022 but has not yet played for the senior squad. Erik ten Hag has been consistently picking him in the first team squad but not given game time. Forward line of Rashford, Osimhen, David and Elanga or Garnacho would be the expectation for next season.

United this season have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham at home, losing to City away and drawing to Chelsea away. Good home record is the essential base for a solid finish and eventual title challenge in a few seasons given the high standards of City. Erik ten Hag has handled the situation around Cristiano Ronaldo firmly yet respectfully. United finally have a midfield in Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes and Fred to play on their strengths and not take counter-attacking route which was used too often in recent past especially under Solskjaer. Eriksen has no backup as yet and thus the interest in Frenkie de Jong while Donny van de Beek has missed most of the season through injury. Erik ten Hag has seen out a tough set of fixtures in first eleven games, while 20 points and 5th position is the same as David Moyes at this stage of the seaon, the Dutchman has evolved a clear playing style that dictates the player selection and a much better squad to chose from. United are back... but here is the World Cup in the middle of the season and risk of injuries to players that can yet derail the season!

Can Erik ten Hag break the losing jinx of post-Ferguson managers against City?

188th Manchester derby arrives with the red half at a major disadvantage of not having played a league game since 3-1 win over Arsenal on 4th September, which was their fourth consecutive victory after two disastrous defeats at the start of 2022-23 English Premier League campaign. While City are in-form winning five and drawing two with target man Erling Haaland scoring 11 of their 23 goals and Kevin de Bruyne already notched up six assists this early in the season. Reds have only scored eight goals and conceeded similar number. This highlights a massive gulf between the two sides despite United turning things around, lot of work lies ahead to close the gap.

David Moyes lost 1-4 in his first league match against City, Louis van Gaal lost 0-1, Jose Mourinho lost 1-2 at home,  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost 0-2 at home as interim manager but won both home and away fixtures next season as permanent manager, Ralf Rangnick also lost 1-4. Another grim reminder of United falling behind their local rivals who have won the Premier League in four of last five seasons. Sir Alex Ferguson triumphed 2-0 over City in March, 1987 when United finished 11th and City were relegated in the old First Division with 22 teams. First derby match for Ferguson was in fact the FA Cup 3rd Round which United won in January by a single goal scored by Norman Whiteside. 

Overall United still edge the derby stats with 77 wins to 57 with 53 games being draws and will take at the minimum 10 years to eclipse if City win all home and away games. Erik ten Hag has already shown glimpses of turning things around and if he remains in-charge United will not need 10 years to win the Premier League again. After Sir Matt Busby it took United 26 excruciating years and now after Sir Alex Ferguson it already has been 9 seasons. Erik ten Hag has managed to lose just one of eight 'Der Klassieker' derby in Dutch league against rivals Feyenoord. In is short span he has managed to out-wit Jurgen Kloop to win 2-1 vs Liverpool and won less convincingly against Arsenal 3-1. He knows what this fixture means for local fans and to continue the momentum of last four games.

Erik ten Hag won 'Manager of the month' award and Marcus Rashford won the 'Player of the month' awards simultaneously for the September. International break saw the best of Diogo Dalot, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes for Portugal, Casemiro and Fred for Brazil (Anthony came on as sub in both games), Lisandro Martinez for Argentina, Luke Shaw for England, Tyrell Malacia for Netherlands, Christian Eriksen for Denmark, Raphael Varane for France who won with him 2-0 and lost without 0-2 vs Denmark. Harry Maguire the United captain drew the biggest criticism for the penalty conceded against Germany. While England boss Gareth Southgate backed his man as expected, his injury rules him out of the derby.

Jadon Sancho can be the star of this match. Not being named in the squad for England during the International break should have given him more time to prepare and get himself back in the squad for the World Cup. He has played with Haaland while at Dortmund and can share his first-hand tips to stop the Premier League top goalscorer. Sancho who also came from the City academy and will cherish to score against them in order to firmly be entrenched as United folk hero. A certain parallel with Ryan Giggs cannot escape attention. Anthony Martial returns from injury and will be on subs bench.

Two most important players will be the fullbacks Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia, both just 23 with the task of stopping crosses meant for Erling Haaland. Scott McTominay based on his excellent form continues to displace the Brazilian Casemiro from the first team. Lisandro Martinez has not allowed Haaland to score in three games the duo have played head-to-head in their Ajax vs Dortmund stints bodes well for the Argentinian who came under scathing examination for his short stature in the English media. Shrewd signing of Akanji by City shows the leaps United need to make to catch up in recruitment. Defeat against Real Sociedad in the very first game of Europa League at home highlighted a stark reality i.e., changing habits takes time and persistent effort. A solid performance against the best team in the country sans the result will still soothe the fans.

United dominate opposition after years in doldrums

Manchester United totally bossed the game with 28 shots 10 on-target against 3rd placed Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur who were also ...

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