There is a famous saying that goes “hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard”. This could certainly be applied to Manchester United’s opening two Premier League games of the season.
This is said without wanting to sound at all disrespectful to both Brighton and Brentford, two great sides who absolutely deserved to beat United. However, it probably can’t be disputed too much that, overall, on paper, United have a more talented squad.
Although, it is certainly worth noting that there are definitely players from each side who would probably improve the Reds.
If there is one thing that you can say about United’s performances in their first two games of the season, it was that they did not work hard enough at all, especially against Brentford.
However, in the next three games, against Liverpool, Southampton, and Leicester, everything felt different. It really felt like the players wanted to win more than anything else.
They have been driven, they have had the right attitude, and they have worked hard for the entire game. Every loose ball, every tackle, every header, the players have worked hard to win; most of the time, they have done.
Another important change from the Brentford game was the intensity and distance of United’s running. Against Brentford, they ran 8.5 miles less than their opposition, resulting in Erik ten Hag making his players run the extra distance in a training session the day after. To show his commitment and togetherness with the squad, the United manager himself joined in.
However, it was the opposite against Liverpool. United outran Liverpool, covering a total of 114km, and completing an incredible 51 more sprints than Jurgen Klopp’s side. This played a huge part in that particular win, and the ones after it. As these numbers reflect, the whole team worked extremely hard and got a deserved three points.
Having a manager like Ten Hag, who is clearly able to motivate his players and rally them together, is a massive benefit.
The Dutchman has now started the same team three games in a row. Those players must feel like they are properly backed and rewarded for good performances, and those who have been left on the bench must prove to Ten Hag why they should be starting; yet another reason to be extra motivated and work hard.
The passion and desire the United players have had in the last three games have been reflected through their celebrations. When Jadon Sancho scored against Liverpool, he and his teammates’ celebrations were incredibly passionate, and you could see just how much his goal meant.
Marcus Rashford’s first goal of the season against Liverpool also led to unbelievable scenes, and the noise in Old Trafford was electric when he scored. The whole mood around the stadium surrounding on-the-pitch matters was completely different to what we have seen in recent months.
Lisandro Martinez, who has been phenomenal for United and won August’s player of the month award, has constantly shown how much it means to him to play for this club. At full time against Liverpool, it was clear to see just what those three points meant.
Having Martinez in the squad, a player who has an exceptional attitude and desire to win, will be infectious and players like him can hopefully help spur the squad on at times of need this season. The same can be said for Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, new signings Antony and Casemiro, and other members of Ten Hag’s side. They will be vital this season for things other than their footballing ability.
Diogo Dalot is another player who has been performing to an exceptional level recently. Playing for Manchester United clearly means everything to Dalot, too. His celebration at making a block against Leicester was something that no doubt got fans off their seats celebrating. It was inspiring from the full-back.
Aside from this incredible passion and attitude on display in the last three games, United have been playing some excellent football. The game against Liverpool was arguably the best performance from United in years.
Against Southampton and Leicester, they controlled the game on the whole, and whilst they only scored one goal in each game, they still created some good chances, and defensively, they looked very good. It is fair to say that of late, the football United are playing has been exciting. What's more exciting, however, is that there is still much to improve. But this is a solid starting point.
Following the third win in a row against Leicester, United face another big test. Top of the league, unbeaten, Arsenal. Of course, the questions will be, can the players keep going? Can they back up that performance, with an elite mentality and an exceptional attitude, and do it again, against a good side?
This is probably the biggest test this season, given Arsenal’s form. To get another three points at Old Trafford on Sunday would be an unbelievable statement of intent. Ten Hag and his side have been exciting to watch recently, and beating Mikel Arteta's men would be the ideal way to continue this uprise of form and attitude.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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