After last seasons dissapointment, Manchester United have hit back this season, they currently hold a 12 point gap at the top of the Premier League over local rivals Manchester City and are still in with a fighting chance of FA Cup success.
Here are three reasons behind the success of United this time around:
Change of style
Manchester United have been known for their traditional 4-4-2, winger orientated style of football, and although it has been the catalyst for the dethroning of Liverpool way back in the 90s, it could be accused of becoming out-dated.
This season Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have accepted that the 4-2-3-1 formation that has dominated Europe for recent seasons should be adopted in order to compete with Europe’s top teams.
With the attacking trio of Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney playing behind the lethal Robin van Persie, there seems to be a certain fluidity behind United’s attack that they lacked last season, with all players equally adept at playing each other role, whether that is centre forward, or out on the flank. Sir Alex seems to have emphasised the importance of an attack on the same wavelength.
Strength in depth
Part of the reason United have advanced further in all cup competitions than they did last season, is due to the ability to rest key players for cup and league matches.
Much of the FA Cup progress has been led by Manchester United’s second string players, with the exception of van Persie’s heroics against West Ham, and they have rewarded the Ferguson’s trust by leading the team to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
At this level of the game, it is vitally important to have a squad past the starting XI in order to progress through multiple competitions and deal with injuries to the team, with United’s bench looking it’s strongest for seasons, you only have to look at the likes of Javier Hernandez, Nani and Antonio Valencia to realise the power and attacking threat they possess.
Robin van Persie
Beyond the attitude, the changes in formation and the strength in depth, realistically much of United’s domination this season has been down to one man: Robin van Persie. His goal scoring record is brilliant, with 19 goals in the Premier League this season, only two goals behind leading scorer Luis Suarez, and his input has seriously influenced the team’s play.
It is not just his goals, but his ability to hold the ball up, set up goals, his eye for a pass and his selflessness when tracking back to help defend a lead. You only have to read every Manchester United player’s interviews to realise his value to the team, as he is lauded to be as influential as Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He adds what the fans have craved for, a big name signing. Someone who’s name can be chanted from the Stretford End at Old Trafford, an instant hit, a cult hero. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, there hasn’t been a huge, instant impact signing that got fans as ecstatic as they did when Sir Alex bought the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy quite a few years ago. Many fans were questioning if they would ever see any of the monster £80 million received for the Portuguese superstar when he departed for Real Madrid, but the signing of the flying Dutchman has lifted both players and fans, the sheer presence of him on the Old Trafford pitch changing the outlook of the United team.
Of course, there is still a long way to go in both the FA Cup and the Barclays Premier League before the Red Devils can start to dream of a domestic double or even any silverware at all. The form so far, however indicates that a successful season is well within their grasp and although nothing is won, this could be looked back upon in the summer as one of Manchester United’s glory seasons of the past decade.
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