As the Premier League wraps up its 6th Gameweek, the league table begins to take a familiar yet still somewhat open shape. Manchester United failed to take advantage of the losses suffered by Chelsea and Arsenal when they made the short journey to Bolton and came away with only a point. As disappointing as the draw was for supporters, United were still able to jump ahead of Arsenal and into second place. As United still search for the attacking cohesion that won them three Premier League titles in a row, here are a few key observations for United fans to keep in mind after the draw and after the first six weeks of the season.
0 Lost in 8 in all competitions (9 if you count the Community Shield) - At times United look as if they’re struggling with their oh-so-familiar early season form. But really, how bad are things? As occurrences on the pitch could easily be better, United are undefeated in all competitions this season. A few mental lapses avoided and United could easily be top of the league. While rivals Chelsea have now lost two in a row and with Arsenal dropping their first home match since January, United remain unbeaten while only 3 points behind the leaders. Maybe not Premier League favorites just yet, but until someone figures out how to beat them, they’ll remain not far from the top.
Wayne Rooney’s dip in form may take more time to sort out. He’s obviously out of sorts. No real spark, no creativity. When was the last time Rooney was pulled in the 61st minute of a match based on his form? The off the field distractions have obviously gotten the better of the England international who’s netted once in six matches, a penalty. Rooney’s always been a form player, when he’s clicking, he’s one of the best in the world, but when he’s off his game, it usually takes him a handful of games to regain his best form. Rooney’s a long way from his form of last season, but with time and patience, he’ll recover it. Dimitar Berbatov’s fine run of games has been an early season savior for United.
It’s looking more and more like Johnny Evans isn’t a Manchester United-quality defender. For two or three weeks in a row now, and with Rio Ferdinand still struggling with fitness, Johnny Evans has been caught out in central defense which has nearly led to an opposition goal and caused United problems. While he’s progressed miles in the last few years, Evans is currently experiencing a difficult run of form as he and Nemanja Vidic attempt to settle into a central defensive partnership. Usually close to a 5 or 6 out of 10 in the loathed or loved player ratings, Evans, an athletically gifted defender, must continue to focus his energies on his concentration.
Manchester United can still win the league and silverware this year. No one imagined United would be top of the league with a 100% record heading into October. As at times good and mediocre as United has been this season, they’ll likely get better. With the impending return of Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson into the first team soon, United will have more cover for the aging Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – two players who were largely ineffective Sunday v Bolton. A completed product United have yet to become.
Nani is coming good this season and will continue to improve, impress. Nani scored a brilliant goal to bring United level in the first half when he picked up the ball at the halfway line, got the better of four Bolton defenders, and slotted home past Jussi Jaaskelainen. His continued improvement in form over the last few years hasn’t placed him in the realm of the one he replaced, but has at least showed immense improvement and growing potential. Nani is proving he’s becoming a very good attacking player and that he can be counted on. He’s contributed with goals, assists, and has even shown his abilities to track back and defend (see under his defensive performance v Leighton Baines v Everton).
Some will say it was two huge points dropped away to Bolton on Sunday while I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But the point earned when those in front of United gained 0 could end up counting for a lot.