The first half of the season has certainly been a strong one for Manchester United. Top of the table after 18 games is something to be satisfied with, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know that there is still a long way to go.
Sunday’s draw with Liverpool at Anfield meant they are still three points clear of last season’s champions, and two points ahead of second-placed Manchester City who have a game in hand. United will feel that they are well in with a shout of winning their first league title since 2013, in what is arguably the most competitive season in the Premier League for years.
Given that the majority of teams have now played 18 matches, it’s worth taking stock of how much United have progressed over the past few seasons. Top of the pile with 37 points is nothing to be sniffed at, but how does it compare to the previous campaigns since the club last won the league title?
If you’re just comparing it to last season then the improvement is staggering. After the same amount of games, United racked up just 25 points which is shows nearly a 50 per cent increase in their tally for this campaign.
In fact, the only time in the past seven seasons that United have surpassed their current points tally was back in 2017/18 in Jose Mourinho’s second year in charge. That campaign saw the Red Devils amass 41 points from 18 games and lie in second place in the table, behind eventual runaway winners Man City.
Last season was really the only major drop off since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Over the past seven seasons United have only achieved less than 30 points three times at this stage of the campaign, and average 31.85 points in that time after their first 18 matches.
That just goes to show the improvement that Solskjaer has managed to get out of his players this term. The likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford will take a bulk of the credit and rightfully so, but it has truly been a team effort.
It’s also interesting looking at the league positions that United have been in over the past few seasons. This is the first time since Ferguson’s retirement that the club sit top of the table after 18 games, although it must be said Man City could leapfrog Solskjaer’s side should they win their game in hand.
Here is a quick breakdown of where United have found themselves in the table after the first 18 league games in each of the past seven seasons:
2020/21 – 37 points (1st)
2019/20 – 25 points (8th)
2018/19 – 29 points (6th)
2017/18 – 41 points (2nd)
2016-17 – 33 points (6th)
2015/16 – 29 points (6th)
2014/15 – 35 points (3rd)
2013-14 – 31 points (7th)
While the first 18 games of the season have been strong from a United perspective, the business end of the season is still to come. There are 20 more matches in the league left to play, and it will be some ask to expect the current form to continue once European football returns next month.