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EPL 2018/19: Are Manchester United still title contenders?

James Alonge
584   //    25 Aug 2018, 10:27 IST

Manchester United started the Premier League season with a narrow 2-1 victory over Leicester City. The Red Devils, however, were beaten by a resilient and determined Brighton side, who were at some points, cruising.

The fans were somewhat disappointed at the kind of football displayed by Jose Mourinho's side. Some people have called it the "third syndrome" failure by any side tutored by the Portuguese, alluding to the fact that United may fail to deliver under Mourinho's third season at the club.

It is true that the signs have not been particularly impressive. The Brighton game should not be used as a yardstick to draw conclusions about how Manchester United's season will pan out at the end of the day. There are some reasons to still keep the faith.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Alexis battles for the ball in a game against Leicester City

#1 The absence of Alexis Sanchez

Undoubtedly, Manchester United missed the Chilean who has a different quality in unlocking defenses with his incisive passes as well as his ability to draw defenders to his side leaving space for the likes of Romelu Lukaku to do the damage. If Alexis is fit for the entire season, you can be sure that United will give City a fight for the title.

Manchester United v Sevilla FC  - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Manchester United v Sevilla FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

#2 The influence of Pogba and Matic in the midfield is still missing

Last season, Nemanja Matic was massive at the back for Manchester United. He does what he knows how to do best, acting as an extra defender when the full backs go forward to attack. United started the season well because they had Paul Pogba playing in that hole behind the striker as a No.10.

Once Matic and new signing Fred gel, it will give Pogba the freedom to impose himself in the middle of the park.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League
Jose Mourinho watches as his United side lose to Brighton and Hove Albion

#3 A silently determined Jose Mourinho

When you watch Jose Mourinho's press conferences so far this season, you can feel that he is determined on succeeding this season. The club's inadequate signings has left him somewhat disappointed, however.

"I would like to have two more players," Mourinho said, after his side were beaten 4-1 by Liverpool in the International Champions Cup.

He further added "I gave a list to the club of five names a few months ago and I wait to see if it is possible to have one of these players. If it is possible, it is possible, if it is not possible it is not possible. If it is possible, good, if it is not possible we keep fighting, working and believing in the players that we have."

Jose Mourinho has also been very careful about openly criticizing his players. "When I speak about individual performances and when I'm critical with my players, you just don't accept it," he told Sky Sports.

"The press and pundits are usually very critical of me when I go in that direction, so please don't ask me to go in this direction, because it's not good for me. So I will be very, very happy to analyse my players' performances when they are very good.

"It is a great thing for me to come in front of the camera and say player A, B, C was fantastic. It's amazing for me. When I cannot do that, don't push me to the other side, because I don't go to the other side".

It appears that Mourinho is trying to take the pressure off the players early in the season and he looks determined to prove doubters wrong that he is not a "third season failure". Hopefully, he can do that.

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James Alonge
I am an unbiased and objective sports writer who looks at the drama, the intrigues and probables in the sporting world
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