In many seasons where Manchester United won the Premier League title, their start to the season was underwhelming. A prime example of this was in the 2007-08 season, where United only picked up two points in their first three games. This left United in 17th place after three games, but ultimately nobody had any reason to panic, as a poor start to a season could be afforded. Following a disappointing first three games, Manchester United famously went on to win the Premier League and the Champions League, therefore showing how little damage those early games had on their season. However, the nature of the Premier League has changed and Manchester United cannot afford a sloppy start to the 2021/22 campaign.
The emergence of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the last five years, has meant that any slip ups at all could be potentially fatal for a title win. The last four winners of the Premier League have accrued 86 points, 99 points, 98 points and 100 points. With the exception of the pandemic hit 2020/21 season, the points haul needed to win a title has become absurdly high. This is illustrated by the fact that Liverpool came second in the 2018/19 season, in spite of achieving a ridiculous 97 points.
The impressive transfer dealings of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, means that a return to pre pandemic points totals is likely. The £100m signing of Jack Grealish is a huge statement of intent from Manchester City, who could also add Harry Kane to their superb squad. Meanwhile, Chelsea are close to adding Romelu Lukaku to a squad that is already the holders of the UEFA Champions League.
The return of relatively normal pre-season schedules will also play a part in the return of high points totals. The poor start of Manchester United and Manchester City in the 2020/21 season, was largely due to the fact that both clubs hadn’t had any pre season training at all. While Euro 2020 has affected the return of players to their clubs, the preparation this year has been much better than last year.
The combination of rival clubs flexing their muscles in the market and teams presumably being fitter, means Manchester United must have an almost impeccable start to the season. This is a scenario that is very plausible, especially due to United’s favourable schedule for the first six games. After the opening game against Leeds, United will play: Southampton, Wolves, Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa. An impressive points tally from those games would stand United in good stead to sustain a title challenge.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff will be aware of just how important a strong start to the season is for United’s title challenge. The league cannot be won in the opening five games, but it can be lost.