On Tuesday, a 1-0 victory at Burnley, secured by a deflected Paul Pogba volley, lifted United above great rival Liverpool to the summit of the top division of England after 17 games, reaching the halfway point of the season.
United midfielder Nemanja Matic said, “We are exactly where we belong.”
The last time United led the standings so far into a league campaign, the great Alex Ferguson was still in charge. That was in the 2012-13 season and in what proved to be his final season as a manager, Ferguson would go on to lead United to the championship.
This week, the Norwegian said that “no one remembers the January league tables,” but at the final whistle it did not stop him from getting a look of satisfaction. Given the criticism, he has faced in his two years in charge, mainly from those who think he’s not suited to be a manager at this stage, very justifiably, too.
Yet he did something that David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho, his three successors after the retirement of Ferguson, we’re unable to do, at least in a season this far. In September 2017, United was briefly top, while in August 2018, a season-opening victory over Leicester put the team in first place for one day in what proved to be a false spot.
United jumped into a three-point advantage over Liverpool that could be wiped out immediately, going to Anfield on Sunday with Solskjaer’s hand.
We’re set, we’re eager, we’re hungry for it,” said Solskjaer, “and it’s a character and quality test again. We’re heading into it in a strong place.
As it is always at Turf Moor, it was a slog against Burnley, with the hosts defending faithfully before being undone in the 71st minute by a cruel piece of fortune.