Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

Man Utd

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Manchester United can still achieve the target Gary Neville set them this season

3 min read

If Manchester United were to win the Premier League title this season then they needed the winning points total to be in the low 80s.

While their own dip in form recently has made that look unachievable now, the fact is Manchester City’s burst of form has made it more likely this will be another campaign where the champions collect more than 90 points. United aren’t close to that standard yet.

City’s 2.3 points per game average now has them on for 87 points, but given the form they are in right now there has to be the expectation that will rise. To all intents and purposes, what was shaping up to be an enthralling title race has been ended by the brilliance of Pep Guardiola’s team.

United’s slump in standards, dropping points in five of their last seven Premier League games, will be concerning and they have some difficult fixtures coming up, but they really should have enough to maintain a seven-point cushion in the top four.

That doesn’t mean the league season is effectively over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, they still have battles to win. A title challenge was always unlikely and while United have surrendered a little too meekly for most tastes, Solskjaer knew the aim this season was improvement.

Having collected 66 points at 1.73 points a game last season, United are currently averaging 1.91 points a game this season. That’s a marginal improvement but the real target should be getting to 76 points. That would be an average of two points a game and should be enough for second place this season, which is clearly attainable.

Two points a game over the course of a Premier League campaign should be the absolute minimum we expect from a United team, but remarkably they’ve hit that total just once in seven years post-Sir Alex Ferguson. That puts them amongst the also-rans.

Expecting United to jump from 66 points to a tally in the 90s in one season is unrealistic, especially on the back of what was essentially an underwhelming transfer window, but going from 66 points to 76 points should be manageable.


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Fundamentally that improvement is what Solskjaer requires. His reign is clearly going forward but at some point strides bigger than the baby steps we’re witnessing will be required. City’s resurgence under Guardiola suggests they might well be capable of hitting mid-90s again for the next couple of seasons.

Solskjaer refused to concede the title in the aftermath of Sunday’s draw with West Brom but there will be frustration that what looked like a season of opportunity for United a month ago is getting away from them already, even if City’s form has changed the narrative.

But as Gary Neville said on co-commentary, finishing a decisive second is still something to aim for and an outcome that will be regarded as impressive for United.

To do that they will need key players to rediscover their form. The attack isn’t firing at the moment, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford struggling, while Bruno Fernandes is still coming up with magic moments but not influencing games for as long as he was a month ago.

It’s at the back where United’s real issues lie and an aversion to dealing with crosses that teams are beginning to expose. Two of United’s next three Premier League games are away at Chelsea and Manchester City, so they will need to click again quickly if they’re to find the accelerator pedal once more.

The title might now be a distant dream, but United should be aspiring to make this the second-best league campaign they’ve had since the retirement of Ferguson and in doing so hitting the two points a game marker. It’s by no means the magic number, but it at least a sign of progress.

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