Manchester United got the 2023/24 Premier League season off to a promising start with a 1-0 home triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
Though the Red Devils’ opening-day showing left plenty to be desired, Erik ten Hag’s side posted a morale-boosting win to take their unbeaten home record to 30 matches.
While waiting for marquee summer signing Rasmus Hojlund to join the fold from an injury, United found an unlikely source to get an all-important victory over the line.
Raphael Varane headed home Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross to hand the three-time European champions a perfect league start with only his second goal for the club.
Unlike last season, when Ten Hag’s fleet opened the campaign with back-to-back losses, they’ve flown out of the traps this term, inspiring hope among the Old Trafford faithful over a first Premier League title in a decade. For those looking to bet on Man Utd, a top four finish seems almost guaranteed but to find better betting options, learn how you can play bets online and find gambling options that suit you.
Despite praising his side for ‘finding a way to win’ in the post-match conference, the Dutchman highlighted the importance of avoiding poor giveaways that tormented Man Utd on the opening weekend.
“We’re happy. I was really pleased with the win, of course, and it was a fight,” Ten Hag told the club’s website in the aftermath.
“We gave away too many easy giveaways. That was not good. But you have to get into the season, and we will improve on that fact.”
Old Trafford Guarantees Points
Since going down 2-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion on his touchline debut, Ten Hag has turned the Theatre of Dreams into an impenetrable fortress, as evidenced by United’s outrageous 30-game undefeated home run.
Only perennial Premier League champions Manchester City (52) collected more points on home turf than Man Utd (48) last season, testifying to the recreated aura of invincibility at Old Trafford.
Last night’s hard-fought victory showed the Red Devils know in-depth about taking points at home even when their performance flatters to deceive, which is critical to fighting for the title.
Defensive Solidity at Its Best
There’s a feeling Man Utd’s road to a long-awaited title will mainly rely on defensive resilience now that error-prone former captain Harry Maguire is out of the picture.
Supported by resurgent Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw on the flanks, Varane and Lisandro Martinez have forged a promising-looking defensive partnership.
United’s household centre-back pairing often failed to stay away from the treatment room last season, but if they can avoid injuries this term, the Red Devils’ lofty ambitions should be safe and sound.
Then, there’s last night’s hero Andre Onana, whose impressive leg saves helped Man Utd walk away with a clean sheet despite showing signs of vulnerability.
In addition to participating in United’s build-up play from the back far more than his predecessor David de Gea, the Cameroonian showcased stunning reflexes to fend off Wolves’ attempts to level the score.
With such a trustworthy goalkeeper and two top-class defenders in front of him, Man Utd could be a defensive force to be reckoned with this season.
Frontline Lacks Finesse
Marcus Rashford was among the most lethal Premier League forwards last year, especially in the second half of the season, en route to his most prolific senior campaign.
However, his best displays came from the left wing, while Hojlund’s absence forced him to play more central last night, which saw his influence on the game dwindle.
The England international spent most of the evening cut off, inevitably leading to very few chances created in an uneventful performance from Man Utd.
It may take some time before Mason Mount gets used to his new role in Ten Hag’s set-up. But with him and Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings in the engine room, United shouldn’t have creativity issues.
Goals were at a premium for the Red Devils in 2022/23, though Hojlund’s arrival should address their scoring woes and lend Rashford a much-needed helping hand up top.
Much will depend on how the 20-year-old blends in, yet his mobility and a keen eye for goal can inspire confidence in Ten Hag’s corner.
Man Utd’s underwhelming form outside Old Trafford was their Achilles heel last season, as only 36% of their Premier League points came on hostile turf (27/75).
It’s up to Ten Hag to find a way to translate United’s phenomenal home form to their travels since it could be decisive in bolstering the team’s chances of challenging Arsenal and Man City for the crown.
Though it looks like a long shot, the Red Devils could have their saying in this season’s title race, especially if last term’s recurring injuries bypass Ten Hag’s key players.