Chants of “Ole” ring around the stands, the fans are buzzing again, Old Trafford is bouncing. These were the scenes at full time as Manchester United are once again looking up after their win against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
After a drab performance against Aston Villa only four days prior, United put out arguably their best performance this season which will no doubt get the “Ole’s at the wheel” bandwagon back on the road and park the “Ole out” one at least for now, although there are bound to be some who are still not convinced and they may be justified.
Ole has averaged a win rate of 27.3% since taking the job on a permanent basis which is enough reason to believe that United still have not made the right decision and the Norwegian needs to leave. But that is perhaps a story for another day.
The real question is, why do United raise their game to another level when the so-called ‘bigger teams’ come around? It has been the trend this season for them and the results speak for themselves.
They put four past Chelsea, have been the only side to take points off Liverpool this season and were arguably the better team on the day, beat Leicester and now dominated against Tottenham. Then there was that bore draw against Arsenal.
Perhaps the answer already lies within the question. The reason they turn up in big games is simply because they are big games against the best teams. It is only logical for this to happen.
There could also be a matter of the different narratives involved. Against Tottenham, United were going up against Jose Mourinho and they probably wanted to prove a point to their former boss.
Show him they are not the same team he left a year ago and that could have been a further incentive for United to really give it a go and that resulted in arguably their best game of the season. Of course, the draw against Liverpool comes to mind and will be right up there with one of the best games they have played this season. It is a game that, as we all know, needs no extra motivation for the players to perform based on the heated rivalry regarding the fixture going way back to the 1960s.
Could fortune be the reason? It could be, considering all the games against the top six teams including Leicester have all come at home.
Additionally, they beat Chelsea when the Blues were still finding their rhythm and Leicester when they were not flying so high but maybe you need a little bit of luck in terms of timing. But the results against Liverpool and Tottenham, both in rich veins of form, show that luck has not been the only factor in their success this campaign so far.
Of course, playing at home does not guarantee a good result but the presence of your supporters cheering you on and the determination not to disappoint the home support gives encouragement to the players and spurs them on to do great things.
If it isn’t luck, and they perform well away from home in the same vein, then in the context of the League, that is at most 21 points won, and that points tally does not get them where they need to be. The best teams play their best against any and all opposition and United need to find the ruthlessness to beat the so-called lesser teams or there will continue to be a cloud of uncertainty over the club
After all, there are only about five to six big teams compared to the “lesser” sides, meaning the real accumulation of posts lies in that narrative for the latter.
United play their first away game against a top-six team when they make the trip across town to face Manchester City this weekend and that will be the biggest test this season. It will be interesting to see how they play in a big game away from home and maybe their performance rather than the result will be under the microscope.
Why do Manchester United perform in big games? It’s a question that for now does not have a specific answer. It is only halfway through the season and there are still more games to play.
This will be a question to revisit once the season ends. If the question still remains a valid one by then, that is.