Last season was a rather mixed one overall for Manchester United, as they finished a disappointing sixth in the Premier League, but managed to win both the Europa League and the League Cup – which helped to put a gloss on Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge of the club. There is no question that the league performance was unacceptable however and it meant that the pressure on the team and the manager going into this season was immense.
The expectations for Manchester United going into this season were that they would mount a consistent and sustained challenge for the Premier League title – anything else would be deemed a failure.
They started the new season as if that pressure was non-existent, confidently blasting away West Ham, Swansea City and Leicester during August without conceding a goal. They were helped greatly by improved performances from expensive midfielder Paul Pogba and the fact that their biggest summer signing – striker Romelu Lukaku – hit the ground running with several goals in his first few matches for the club.
A couple of dropped points away to Stoke City at the start of September was the first glitch, but otherwise United won all of their matches during that month as well – even if the actual performances did not always match the stylish, swashbuckling attacking play of title rivals Manchester City. United’s play during this early stage of the season had a more attacking slant than many associate with Mourinho, perhaps because he felt more confident that he had the firepower to make this strategy work – and improved quality in midfield through the addition of Nemanja Matic. The Portuguese was certainly confident of a title challenge, but the team began experience a few setbacks during October.
First a frustrating 0-0 draw against Liverpool – which left many questioning Mourinho’s decision to sit deep against one of the league’s most fragile defences – and a shock 1-2 defeat at newly-promoted Huddersfield. These are hardly catastrophic results, but with Pep Guardiola’s City sweeping aside every team they come up against, they have attracted unwelcome media criticism – and led Mourinho to savage the attitude of his players.
United face some key fixtures over the next few weeks, when they will play title challengers Tottenham and Chelsea, and this will perhaps give us a stronger idea of whether they can stay the pace as contenders themselves. They need Lukaku to start delivering the goals on the big occasion, as he was poor against Liverpool, but at 12/1 third favourites for title, the bookmakers certainly feel that they will stay in contention.
Betting on the Premier League winner is something that millions of people around the world will be doing over the course of the next few months, whether it is one of the favourites like the Manchester clubs, Tottenham and Chelsea – or a more outside bet. However, there are also other forms of football gaming, such as themed slots games like Soccer Safari, that provide a fun alternative for those who can’t decide which team will end up winning it.