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1) 4 wins in a row and counting
It’s not many and we even started the season with 4 games in a row before 3 losses in a row, but a run of consecutive wins has been rare over the past few seasons and a run of 10 games unbeaten, including 8 in the league since the horror show at Chelsea, has been even more rare. United have been playing much better for most of the season, with only the first half against City, and away games against Watford and Chelsea considered truly poor performances in the league. There have been plenty of disappointing draws but the performances have generally been good, with a number of chances created and De Gea largely untested, and I’ve often been left wondering how we’ve not come out of game’s with the full 3 points. The answer was clear however, we weren’t taking the many chances we were getting and we were conceding one of the few we were allowing the opposition to have. Despite the results, when things had settled I felt positive, because compared to previous seasons we were creating plenty of chances and De Gea was hardly seen, it was frustrating not to be getting the wins but it seemed a matter of time before we would start winning these games and sure enough we do seem to have finally got there and we must now continue improving.
2) Jones and Rojo resurrected
When Mourinho came in this summer, these 2 were high on a list of players expected to be culled from the squad, Mourinho however decided to give everyone a chance and didn’t sell anyone. Both players featured in pre-season but Jones was soon injured again and Rojo’s performances hadn’t improved since the previous season, the writing looked on the wall for the both of them, until Bailly and Smalling have been injured. A couple of games later and the pair were starting together at Swansea. It was a central defensive partnership to give any United fan nightmares. Good performances were at first met with reservations but a run of good form from the pair has earned them high praise from all quarters and most importantly Mourinho. With Bailly and Smalling coming back it will be interesting to see what happens now. Smalling was expected to be first choice this season and Bailly had started the season remarkably well before injury and you’d expect him to come back in but with him likely to go to the African Nations Cup at the start of next year it may be best to continue with these 2 for the time being, they certainly don’t deserve to lose their place at present.
3) Unbelievable Zlatan
“Too old”, “Too slow”, “Won’t do anything in England”, “Only going to United for the money”, “Won’t even score 10 goals in the league”, these are just a few things naysayers had to say when it was announced that Ibrahimovic was coming to United. A lot of those doubts were understandable, similarly big name signings in Falcao and Schweinsteiger have flopped in the past 2 seasons, failing or being unwilling to adapt to the English game at this stage of their career. At 35, most players are looking to wind down, not Ibrahimovic though, he still has a desire to be the best and help his team be the best. With 16 goals for the season, 11 in the league and 8 in his last 8 games, he is getting better as the season progresses. It’s not just his goal return that has improved of late, his general play has improved indicating that he is adapting to the speed of the English game. With half the season nearly gone, there is already talk that Zlatan wants to stay for another season, and given how good a shape he keeps himself in, he can certainly do it.
4) Lingard’s best performance
This was probably Lingard’s best performance for United. Last season was a breakthrough season for Jesse, starting a lot of games he became one of Van Gaal’s first choice options. Under Mourinho, he hasn’t been used as much but it’s been clear that Mourinho quite likes the player. He’s not someone who’s going to score 20 a season or be a world beater, what he can be is a very effective squad player for United, much like Park Ji Sung was. His tireless and intelligent running was apparent throughout both in attack and defence. With Ibrahimovic coming deep there’s often no one making runs in behind defences, but against West Brom, Lingard was making those runs and it provided the first goal. Nothing seemed on when we regained possession deep in our own half but a pass out wide from Pogba to Valencia led to Lingard making a dart in behind his opposing player and hitting Valencia’s forward pass on the half volley, first time and Ibrahimovic finished with his head. Lingard isn’t a world beater and is unlikely to be but he deserves more praise from the United fan base. He’s been at the club for over 15 years, he’s one of our own and it’s time to get behind him.
5) Carrick = Wins
With Carrick in the side this season we have won 10 of 12 games, losing none. We have played 14 games without him and won just 5 and lost 5. The stats don’t lie, we win more with Carrick in the side and we don’t lose. Now in his 11th season with us, his importance and influence on the team comes as no surprise to the majority of the fan base. Some may say it took Mourinho a while to realise but it may also be that he was informed that Carrick does tend to start the season slowly so decided to introduce him in to the season slowly. Alongside Herrera and Pogba, United have their best and most balanced midfield since 2008 when we had 2 of Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher and Hargreaves to select from. Carrick isn’t going to be around forever though and a replacement needs to be found, signing Carrick in 2006 was the catalyst to years of success, signing his replacement is a priority and if we get the right man it could yet again prove to be the catalyst to success.