Devil In The Detail : No Time Like The Present

In his new column, Australian journalist Matthew Galea runs the rule over the week that was for Manchester United, whilst casting an eye on the action to come.

No Time Like The Present

With seven points from their opening three games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his Manchester Unied team have made a solid start to the new Premier League season.

And with the international break done and dusted and a must-win clash with Newcastle United at Old Trafford tomorrow, there really is no time like the present for Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut for the club.

Solskjaer has a habit of patiently bedding in his players.

Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho both had to settle for time on the bench before making their way onto the park.

Some say Donny Van de Beek is still waiting to get off the pine!

But surely there will be no such waiting for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese international is fresh and arrives at United having scored two goals in a come-from-behind win over Ireland for Portugal, after playing just the one game for Juventus before signing for United.

He’s hungry and he’s here to help United win – not just three points from week to week, but ideally, some serious silverware.

Ronaldo’s arrival at the club has undoubtedly lifted the spirits of supporters and players alike.

But it’s also risen some other things…

Pressure and expectation.

In some ways, it has raised expectation beyond what this United squad – and in particular this United midfield – seems capable of realistically achieving.

Nevertheless, that pressure and expectation is real and – honestly – United’s hopes of overcoming that pressure and meeting that expectation lie heavily on Ronaldo’s shoulders, rightly or wrongly.

If that’s the case, then he deserves the chance to influence proceedings on the park from the start.

September

League titles are never won in September.

In fact, they’re rarely lost in September.

But such is the number of points required to win the Premier League in the current era, the fact is that the margin for error is incredibly small.

With clashes against Newcastle (H), West Ham (A) and Aston Villa (H), it’s hard to see how any less than nine points will do.

You certainly would not expect the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City to be dropping any more than two points from these same fixtures.

Frustratingly, it is United’s inability to control games and dominate the middle of the park that makes these games arguably more dangerous for United than games against their direct competitors in the Premier League.

As I wrote prior to the Southampton game, I firmly believe that it is these games that are in many ways Ole’s biggest tests.

By now, his ability to manage games and beat the best teams and managers in one-off games is beyond doubt.

It’s his ability to consistently beat the mid-table and bottom-table teams – particularly at home – that’s going to be the difference between a proper title challenge and not.

Matt Galea

Matthew Galea is a freelance Australian journalist who has enjoyed all the fruits of a lifelong love for Manchester United.

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