Manchester United continued its imperious run of form in the Premier League with a 6-2 demolition of Leeds United.
Since the insipid defeat to Arsenal at the start of November — following which many fans had called for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be sacked — United is unbeaten in the league, winning six of its last seven matches to move to within five points of Liverpool in first place.
United also has a game in hand on its bitter rival after being allowed to miss the first game week of the season due to last season’s Europa League semifinal run.
This victory over Leeds and its current run of form begs the question: Is this finally the season Manchester United mounts a Premier League title challenge for the first time since Alex Ferguson left in 2013 … or is it just yet another false dawn under Solskjaer?
United’s inconsistent form under its Norwegian coach is as baffling as it is bizarre.
Truly impressive victories in the Champions League over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig were followed by one of the most inept defensive performances you are likely to see in the defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir.
However, while that inconsistency in Europe resulted in United exiting the Champions League at the group stages, Solskjaer appears to have found a winning formula in the Premier League.
Perhaps what will please Solskjaer and United’s fans the most is the differing manner of the performances during this run. While today’s victory over Leeds showcased the team’s swashbuckling attacking prowess, comeback wins over West Ham and Southampton showed a certain grit and determination that has been sorely missing in recent seasons.
There will be many who, perhaps correctly, will point to United’s still evident defensive deficiencies as reason enough to rule this team out of the title race, but in an unprecedented season in which injuries, a packed schedule and Covid-19 could still play a crucial part, nothing should be ruled out.
United’s early goals against Leeds came from an unlikely source, with midfielder Scott McTominay producing two delightful finishes inside the opening four minutes to put his team in the ascendancy.
From then, United ran away with the match and never looked like being caught, as Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof made it 4-0 after just 37 minutes.
Leeds did pull one back before half time through defender Liam Cooper, but second half goals from Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes added gloss to an already impressive scoreline.
It’s a testament to the way Marcelo Bielsa has implemented his attacking philosophy during his time at Leeds that the side never looked like giving up, and Stuart Dallas curled home a stunning effort to make the scoreline slightly more respectable.
“That was fantastic. From the first minute we had a plan to get after them, go forward when we got the ball and of course Scott gets two goals in the first three minutes which is a great start to the game,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports after the match.
“We found a way of getting them going. Just imagine if that had 75,000 people here it would have gone down in history as one of the better Man Utd performances against Leeds here at home.”