Well, well, well, finally a TOP FIVE surrounded in optimism and football joy. After having to find excuses to talk about anything other than the actual football on the pitch so far this season, we can finally revel in the relentless winning machine that is Manchester United.
Incidentally, this was written before the Hull game, but surely, SURELY, Mike Phelan won’t stand in the way of his beloved Red Devils’ march to Wembley. *Phone rings* Hello? What do you mean Mike Phelan was sacked a week ago? Who does the Chairman of Hull think he is sacking Mike Phelan, David Moyes? *puts phone down*
Anyway, surely the new manager bounce won’t be bouncy enough to earn Hull a win at Old Trafford, and by the time this comes out we will be talking about a nine game winning streak. Sorry if I jinxed it, by the way.
Even if we somehow failed to beat the Tigers, we have still just come off the back of a winning streak not seen since Cristiano Ronaldo was at the club. So what have been the best bits so far? Let’s cast a nostalgic eye back to…well, August 2016…
Number Five: Friday Night Lights – MUFC Hollywood
It wasn’t the first game of the season, of course. That was in a sunny seaside town, as we comfortably beat Bournemouth in August. But that was not the moment. The moment came with the first home game of the season and the emergence onto the Old Trafford stage of our brave new/old hope. Paul Pogba was absolutely brilliant as United beat Southampton 2-0. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace. The whole thing looked absolutely beautiful as the sun set and the floodlights cast their mesmerising glow over proceedings.
It was only a 2-0 win home win over Southampton, but that was just the kind of routine 2-0 home win we had not been getting over the past few seasons. There was obviously a lot of room for improvement, but that game, and the goosebumps that came from some of Pogba’s contribution in particular, made it seem like it might be a pretty good season.
The fact that all of this followed the Pogba X Stormzy announcement video was particularly appropriate.
The best football marketing campaign since Eric Cantona locked a load of footballers in a cage. A “couple young kings” joined forces to announce Pogba’s arrival. Plenty of fodder for the “Against Modern Football” crowd, but in truth it was a campaign filled with a kind of joyful bravado. And now that Pogba has been absolutely vital during United’s recent winning run and it’s hard to argue against the idea that he is—at least—the Premier League’s best midfielder, it is even sweeter.
Number Four: Return of the Mkh
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s absence was the most confusing thing about the early part of this season, but it did make his re-emergence into the first-team picture all the more enjoyable.
Man of the match performances against Feyenoord in the Europa League and West Ham United in the League Cup provided a huge lift to the whole club. With three goals and two assists in his last seven games, his impact has been tangible. And of course, he provided one stand out moment in particular….
Number Three: Yung Rash against Hull
For all the glamour and excitement of the new signings, a Manchester-born teenager smashing in a late winner in the rain away from home is very, very hard to beat. Not much more needs to be said about this, but any day Marcus Rashford does something special is a good day, and this was no exception.
Number Two: Bouncing Back Against ‘Boro
Talking of late winners…
It’s almost too obvious a point to make but under the stewardship of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, could you really see a turnaround like the one engineered by Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata against Middlesbrough?
When we went 1-0 down it really felt like it was going to be another “one of those games,” in a season packed with them. Instead, though, something special was about to happen. United simply could not afford to drop those points, having dropped too many already to get away with losing to, or drawing with, Boro at home. First Pogba found Zlatan who found Martial who found the back of the net. Then Mata’s perfect cross found Pogba, whose header was inch perfect. Old Trafford had been particularly flat that day, but it was suddenly as electric as it has been all season. On Fergie’s 75th birthday, the lads gave him a show he would have recognised all-too well.
Number One: OHHHHHHHHHHH MY GOODNESS WHAT DID HE JUST DO????
One of the best things, maybe even THE best thing about Mkhitaryan’s scorpion kick was the noise inside Old Trafford. Most goal celebration sounds essentially sound like “yess” multiplied by 75,000. This one was 75,000 people saying “oh” at the same time. “Oh” as in “OH MY GOODNESS WHAT DID HE JUST DO?” We all knew what he’d done, though, it was clear as day. He had dived forward and flicked out a leg behind him, guiding the ball into the top corner to score, without exaggeration, one of the best goals Old Trafford has ever seen. It was offside which is either irrelevant or makes it better, depending on your world view, but never mind all that.
In the moment it was absolutely magical, and definitely the best moment of the season so far.
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