Man United are making clear their title aspirations against Leeds and festive games will show if they’re real

MANCHESTER, England – Sir Alex Ferguson used to say the key to winning the title is staying in touch with the leaders until Christmas and then winning them in the second half of the season. For the first time since Ferguson’s resignation in 2013, Manchester United has done the first time. A hectic 6-2 win over Leeds United at Old Trafford on Sunday means United are third in the table on Christmas Day this year, five points behind leaders Liverpool with one game in hand.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t the type to get carried away, but for the first time in a long while United have at least made them part of the conversation. What’s next is the hard part, and the trip to Leicester City on Boxing Day and the Wolverhampton Wanderers visit three days later will tell if they’re the real deal.

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“We’re a third of the season – we’re not even halfway there,” said Solskjaer, who celebrated two years in charge on Saturday. “We don’t even see the position in the league. Our fans needed this; they should have been here. Our players will go home tonight and sleep well. I think they worked hard enough and maybe deserve a lie.” in the.

“It was fantastic from the minute we arrived. We had a plan to run after them. We found a way to make them work. Imagine if there were 75,000 people here it would be one of Man United’s best performances been.” Leeds at home. “

At least Solskjaer can point to noticeable progress.

On Christmas Day last year United had just lost in Watford and fell 24 points behind Liverpool to eighth place in the table. Their highest league finish after Ferguson was runner-up in 2017/18 under Jose Mourinho, but on Christmas Day this season they were already 13 points behind eventual champions Manchester City. Titles aren’t won or lost in the first half of the season and United have given themselves a chance.

After the games against Leicester and Wolves between Christmas and New Years, Solskjaer’s team will travel to Anfield on January 17th to face Liverpool. This could well be United’s biggest league game by then since Ferguson left more than seven years ago.

There are significant challenges to be overcome before then, but Solskjaer can be grateful for this Christmas season. United leads the form chart after scoring 19 points out of the last 21 available points. Against Leeds, they have resolved two major issues, namely the failure to start the games quickly and a worrying run of home results by playing twice in the first three minutes and for the first time since the 8-2 win over Arsenal in 2011 scored six goals in a league game.

Solskjaer admitted in the lead-up to their first league game with Leeds since 2004 that Marcelo Bielsa’s gentlemanly style could match his team’s strengths and it was hard to argue with United 4-0 up 10 minutes before half-time. It was a day when almost everything went right.

Scott McTominay, selected in midfield ahead of Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek, became the first player to score in the Premier League within the first three minutes. Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof made it 4-0 after 37 minutes before Liam Cooper got one back for the guests. A surprising pick for his first start since October, Daniel James scored his first league goal since August 2019 shortly after the break and Fernandes scored his second from penalty spot after Anthony Martial was overturned. Stuart Dallas ‘got Leeds’ runner-up in 73 minutes and they would have had more if David De Gea hadn’t made a number of good saves.

The fact that the game ended with eight goals, 43 shots and 24 corners was a fair summary of a chaotic 90 minutes. Perhaps Solskjaer had shown his players Louis van Gaal’s comment that “all they did was defend with 10 men” in the Manchester derby. After six goals against Leeds for the second time in their history, United have scored 28 league goals this season – only from Liverpool and nine more than in the same period last season.

Aside from some questionable defenses, Solskjaer’s only concern has been in full-time injuries that drove McTominay and Luke Shaw away.

“You have to earn the right to win it and it could have been 12-4,” said Solskjaer. “They know it will be hectic and hectic against them because whatever the result, they have a certain style. We have shown that we can get a fitter or stronger team. I see more and more of a Manchester United team I really enjoyed the two years and really enjoyed it today. We want a fit team to go to the end and they have been proving that lately. There are details that we need to work on and we will keep improving. “

Prove it against Leicester and even Solskjaer will have a hard time playing down United’s title chances.