There’s no place to Hyde
United’s split personality means fans don’t know which version to expect ahead of Arsenal visit
Manchester United’s players and manager face the firing line again on Wednesday as the Gunners come to Old Trafford in confident mood. Here, we look at three talking points ahead of the game:
Jekyll and Hyde United
They’re in the midst of their worst start to a season in 28 years and there has been an increasingly poisonous atmosphere hanging over Old Trafford – so it’s easy to forget United have, at times this term, been pretty impressive.
A gritty 2-1 taming of Juventus, a swathe of attacking football that rescued a 3-2 win against Newcastle and a point at Chelsea that should have been three. These have tended to go hand-in-hand with results that reduce United fans to the face palm emoji – defeat to Derby in the League Cup, being picked apart like a cast-off chip packet by a Seagull on the pier at Brighton and the gutless 3-1 West Ham debacle.
There was much to admire and despise in the 2-2 draw at Southampton. A stirring fightback to draw level at 2-2 by halftime, yet they never looked like finding a winner.
What type of performance are fans in store for? They probably shudder to think about which version is going to show up.
Emery rolling with big win
His side are on a scintillating 19provide
game unbeaten run so it’s hard to find fault – but up until the weekend Arsenal’s impressive start to life under Emery had failed to yield a win over a big team.
The superb run has been collated since back-to-back defeats to open the season against champions Manchester City and then at Chelsea. A 1-1 draw was earned at Anfield but a major scalp has eluded them. And scalps don’t come more coveted than a victory over despised rivals,.
Emery now has his first major win, with United next. It’s almost a little flattering to give United big team billing, such is the malaise setting in under Jose Mourinho.
But they do remain dangerous on their day. And whether they’re in poor form or not, victory would another fillip to Arsenal’s top-four, or even title, ambitions
Top four far away?
Sir Alex Ferguson oversaw plenty of abject starts to seasons during his time as United manager, with the Scot banking on his side inevitably coming good when the business end of the season began.
With that in mind, an eight-point gap to the top four doesn’t immediately seem hazardous to United. What is, however, is this is not a side cast in the mould of Ferguson.
United have not been that gritty and glorious version for quite a number of years. This version is brittle and boring, and an eightpoint gap – which could become 11 should Arsenal win – already seems insurmountable.
Mourinho was bizarrely forced to address comments following the Saints draw that he believed his side would need a “miracle” to earn a spot in the top four.
“It is not what I feel at all,” the beleaguered Red Devils boss said. Whether he was backtracking or not, the form of the six sides above his should worry the manager.
All Guns blazing: Unai Emery’s reign really began with the Spurs win.