Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish offered glimpse of Manchester United in title-winning form

James Robson
·4-min read
REUTERS
REUTERS

Manchester United remain in fifth place – but make no mistake about it, this is title-winning form.

A 17th game without defeat and a fourth straight Premier League win by three goals or more is a statement of intent for next season.

Aston Villa – who were such stubborn opponents for champions Liverpool on Sunday – were swept away by the power and precision of United’s attacks, just like Sheffield United, Brighton and Bournemouth before them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is quietly confident of a genuine title challenge next term – and this was another pointer to the threat they pose to Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba scored the goals that moved them to within a point of fourth-placed Leicester – but this is a team with ambitions of far more than Champions League qualification.

(REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

A 34-point gap to Liverpool will be reset when the new campaign begins – and for anyone thinking it’s too big a bridge to cross, a look back at recent history would prove otherwise.

Indeed the tail-end of a season is often the best barometer of the one to follow.

Leicester’s title-winning campaign in 2016 came immediately after they’d narrowly avoided relegation and finished 46 points below champions Chelsea. But that battle to avoid the drop saw them win seven of their last nine games – losing just once.

It was title-winning form – just at the wrong end of the table.

Guardiola’s first season at City saw them finish well off the pace of Chelsea, but lose just one of their last 17 games in the league.

(PA)
(PA)

They would go on to win the title with 100-points the following campaign.

And most recently Liverpool reached the Champions League final and beat City three times the year, before putting together 97-point season to push Guardiola to the wire and then conquer Europe.

It is impossible to ignore the strides currently being made by a United team that are growing in confidence with every performance.

They weren’t at their best against Villa – yet the three points were never in doubt.

Their superior quality made certain of that.

Fernandes – the catalyst to their season – broke the deadlock by winning a dubious penalty and then converting it.

That’s eight goals and six assists in 15 games since his January arrival.

Greenwood doubled the lead with another wonder strike from distance for the 18-year-old, whose total of four goals from outside the box is more than any other player in the Premier League this season.

It’s also nine League goals, making him the first player since Wayne Rooney to reach that figure in a single season before the age of 19 since Wayne Rooney.

Paul Pogba has looked rejuvenated since Project Restart and got his name on the scoresheet to for the first time this season to complete the scoring.

Add to that trio Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford and there is the basis of a team that should be competing at the very top, rather than scrapping for fourth.

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Had they shown this form from the start of the season they would have been pushing Liverpool already. Meanwhile three wins against both City and Chelsea provide further evidence of a coming force.

Should they maintain this run to the end of the season then it will end with silverware in the form of the FA Cup and/or the Europa League, and see them installed as one of the favourites to win the title next term.

But Solskjaer knows this is a work in progress: he is choosing his words carefully, trying not to put too much pressure on his developing team.

Good luck with that. Their form alone is pushing them into the spotlight and the hype is only just beginning.

The secret is out about Greenwood.

A midfield axis of Fernandes and Pogba is as good as anything on these shores or across the continent.

(REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Rashford and Martial complete a fluid and dynamic attack that is tearing opponents apart.

Solskjaer has made a point of reminding his superiors at United that he wants them to back him further; to allow him to complete his project even in light of Covid-19.

A significant boost could come in the form of Pogba ending the uncertainty over his future, with increasingly encouraging noises surrounding the France international.

But he needs the funds to bring in the type of quality that can put real pressure on the players already at his disposal.

To do that they will need to be of the highest quality.

Leading target Jadon Sancho, for instance, would add an extra dimension to this thrilling forward line.

Another target Jack Grealish – who struggled to make an impact on the night – saw first-hand the level he will be stepping up to if he makes the move at the end of the season.

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

He would be going from a relegation fight to a title challenge.

That is the direction of travel for United no matter what the table says.

Read more

Pogba vows to help Greenwood realise his potential at Man United

'Disgraceful!'- Villa boss Smith slams Fernandes penalty decision

Villa 0-3 Man United: Fernandes, Greenwood and Pogba boost UCL hopes

'Greenwood is a real talent'- Gary Neville in awe after latest goal