·25 September 2023
·25 September 2023
Given the relative success of last season – ending a six-year trophy drought and securing only a fourth top three Premier League finish since Sir Alex Ferguson retired a decade ago – and the expectation that came off the back of it, Manchester United have started 2023/24 poorly.
A 1-0 home win over Wolves to start the season was ok and not much more. United were then heavily criticised for a lacklustre performance away at Tottenham to follow it up, before coming from behind against Nottingham Forest back at Old Trafford after initially going 2-0 down.
Erik ten Hag's side were much more in the game against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, initially taking the lead through Marcus Rashford. Martin Odegaard equalised, but Alejandro Garnacho thought he had won it late on only for VAR to intervene with an offside call. Eventually, the Gunners sucker punched their visitors with stoppage time goals from Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus.
Defeat to Brighton at home when the international break finished was bad. United also looked at one stage as though they might be played off the pitch against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but three goals scored in Germany was a positive despite four going in at the other end.
Last time out, Burnley away threatened to be a banana skin, especially with ex-Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany at the helm and keen to get one over on his old rivals in addition to the Clarets' desperate search for points on their return to the Premier League.
But a patched up United side that saw Jonny Evans make his first start for the club in almost eight and a half years emerged victorious. Evans himself, only in the side because Lisandro Martinez and Harry Maguire were absent, and Raphael Varane was only fit enough for the bench, made an enormous contribution to the win – notably setting up the only goal with a pinpoint pass.
Amid headaches because of numerous injuries and players unavailable for other reasons, Evans later came out and said that Erik ten Hag has "got a good thing going" at United.
Now is the time to build some positive momentum with a run of favourable games over the next few weeks, the vast majority of which are also at home. That starts with back-to-back Old Trafford clashes with Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup and Premier League.
Galatasaray is then the first Champions League home game of the season, with United facing the Turkish side and Copenhagen twice each before they next meet Bayern Munich. That will provide a chance to get enough points on the board that Bayern's December visit to Old Trafford could potentially be a dead rubber for both teams without the pressure to qualify for the knockouts.
Brentford visit Old Trafford in the last game before the October international break, while United's only away game before the end of next month is at Bramall Lane, where Sheffield United were destroyed 8-0 by Newcastle over the weekend in the one of the biggest ever Premier League wins.
Manchester City at the end of October is a huge test. But, derby day aside, United will go into every game between now and the end of November as significant favourites, with Fulham, Luton and Everton also to come in the Premier League during that time.
View publisher imprint