Manchester United began the 2019/20 Premier League season with one win, two draws and a defeat in August, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team with five points from four games.
That is only good enough for eighth place in the current table, albeit ahead of Tottenham on goal difference, and there is still a long way to go.
With one month of the season already in the books, here’s a look back at August in review…
Daniel James is so far proving to be worth every penny of the £15m United paid Swansea for his services in June after netting three goals in his first four appearances for the club – that tally makes him the club’s top scorer ahead of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial (both two goals).
James isn’t the most technically gifted in the squad, nor is he the kind of player who can carry a team on his back, but his searing pace, application and determination have already made him a tremendous asset for United in his short time in Manchester. Bear in mind, this was a player most probably didn’t expect to start a lot of games in his debut season.
His contribution has been much more than just what he does on the ball, with the Wales international the perfect player for Solskjaer’s pressing tactics. Even in situations where he doesn’t touch the ball, he puts opponents under pressure in possession in dangerous areas.
There is room for improvement across the board, but Jesse Lingard needs to do an awful lot more to justify a starting place in the coming weeks.
Lingard’s complete lack of Premier League goals or assists in the calendar year has been well publicised. And while he is still a willing runner that has some merit, attacking players like him are judged in terms of their direct measurable output – that means goals and assists.
It is bizarre to think of the 26-year-old as a senior member of the squad, but there have been times this season when he was United’s oldest outfield player on the pitch.
United started the new Premier League season in some style when Chelsea visited Old Trafford back on 11 August and were in complete control from the moment Kurt Zouma brought down Rashford and the same player converted from the penalty spot.
It was like watching the United of old that Solskjaer has worked hard to resurrect, with Chelsea knocked totally out of the game in the space of two second half minutes when Martial and Rashford scored one after the other to make it 3-0. James then made it four on his debut.
United forced Chelsea into errors and made sure they fully capitalised when chances came.
It’s a shame that United haven’t been able to match that clinical Chelsea performance in the three games since. Things haven’t been as terrible as some would have you believe, as they have actually created chances in subsequent weeks, but have failed to convert them. There also appears to be some kind of mental block as United have twice gone ahead in games, only to be pegged back.
Disappointing results against Wolves and Crystal Palace were defined by missed penalties and could easily have ended differently. But United still needed to do more to test their opponents.
For the worst performance in August, look to Southampton. United were the dominant force in the first half of the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, barring a five-minute spell at the beginning of the game, and should have been control when leading 1-0.
But they allowed the Saints to get back into the game after half-time and appeared completely out of ideas when tasked with trying to get back in front against a side that then spent the last 20 minutes of the game with only ten players on the pitch.
James scored an absolute rocket against Southampton, rifling the ball into the far top corner after cutting onto his right foot from the left flank.
On its own this would stand out as a top goal in any context, but there was also plenty more that contributed to it than just the finish alone.
The move started with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the right-back position and it was neat interplay between Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay to quickly move the ball across the pitch to where James was. Juan Mata then made an intelligent run to open up the space for his young teammate – their relationship in particular seems to have a distinct mentor/mentee feel to it.
Critics are keen to throw around statistics about three wins in 13 Premier League games stretching back to last season, but United’s start to the campaign in August wasn’t disastrous.
A lot of improvement is obviously still needed, but only fine margins stopped United getting ten points from these opening four games. This is also the start of a brand new project after a marked shift in recruitment policy and notable squad thinning over the summer.
As things stand, some of the players still aren’t good enough to get where United want to go, while others haven’t found consistent form. But it’s not a bad start.