Manchester United started the season with a whimper following their respectable second-place finish to the 2017/18 campaign. 11 games in, before a meet with Manchester City, they trailed the league-leading reigning champions by nine points.
But, Jose Mourinho sees his side improving, and has claimed that the team will be in a very different position by the time December comes around. Regardless of their recent form, it’s clear that they’ll need reinforcements to mount a serious challenge on their local rivals and all others vying for the crown.
Mourinho’s optimism after recovery
Mourinho : "900 ? Je n'en avais aucune idée. Maintenant, je peux compter en vue de fêter mon 1000e" #MUFC
— Manchester United (@MUnitedFrance) November 3, 2018
Source: MUnitedFrance, via Twitter
With three wins and a draw against Chelsea in their four games prior to that clash with City, Manchester United found themselves four points away from the top four and nine down on the leaders. The timely wins – all of which came by one-goal margins – gave manager Jose Mourinho reason for optimism, with the Portuguese claiming that “at the end of December, we will be in a completely different position in the table", per manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football.
But, after an almighty challenge against Manchester City before the November international break, the team will need many results to go their way if they’re to break out as legitimate title contenders. The biggest problem for the Red Devils has been conceding goals.
Last season, they let in 28 goals in the Premier League, which, if allowed at the same rate, would see them sitting with eight goals against. Instead, as of November 3rd, United had conceded 18. Their rate of goal scoring has remained very similar with 19 through their first 11 contests – with a pace of 19.7 in 11 games set by last season’s total of 68 goals for – so it’s clear that they need defensive reinforcements.
To do this, Mourinho will need backing in the transfer market, but it’s being reported by espn.com/soccer that the board will not give their manager the players that he needs. Without a sharp rise in talent at the back, it seems highly unlikely that Manchester United will be able to get involved with the currently close title race.
A lot of competition for City
That win puts us back up to 2nd in the @premierleague! We'll hear from Maurizio Sarri soon – today he has equalled a league managerial record in going his first 11 games unbeaten.#CHECRY pic.twitter.com/8OwGq8od12
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 4, 2018
Source: Chelsea FC, via Twitter
At the 11-game mark, both Chelsea and Liverpool were hot on the tail of Manchester City, only two points behind in the table. Tottenham Hotspur sat five points back and Arsenal only one point back of their London rivals.
It’s clear that fans and experts see Manchester City as the most likely to maintain their standings, on November 5th, sitting at odds of -305 to win the Premier League, but Liverpool hadn’t been counted out just yet at +400. Surprisingly, despite their fiery start and strong team, Chelsea was at +1100 with redbet.com/en/sports/home and was certainly playing to its label of a dark horse contender.
It’s a very close race, and while City certainly has the resources to reinforce and continue to push in the winter transfer window, Chelsea may only be a piece or two from boasting a team that rivals the depth of City’s. The need for a reliable, goal-scoring striker was highlighted as an early weakness, but Morata’s recent form, which manager Maurizio Sarri expects to continue to improve, per telegraph.co.uk/football, may fill the void.
Liverpool has suffered from some key injuries, but as long as Virgil van Dijk remains fit, they boast the depth to continue their assault on Manchester City as the preferred contenders. If Roberto Firmino can recover his strong presence in the box from last season, they can certainly give City a battle until the late stages of the season, if not further.
Unfortunately for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, the team needs a lot of help in defense, with the strongest line-up featuring two natural wingers at full-back, a semi-reliable center-back in Chris Smalling, and an inconsistent or clumsy partner for the Englishman. It seems very unlikely that the Red Devils will get the help that they need, and will struggle against Arsenal and Liverpool in the run-up to the winter window, thus keeping them adrift of the top four.