Dubai: Believe it or not, but Manchester United may have finally turned a corner in their quest for some semblance of stability after a seemingly endless year of tumult.
Sunday night’s 2-0 victory over local rivals City meant much more than three points in the ever-tightening race for the Champions League spots in the Premier League. It was the first time in a decade that United had done the league double over City — a certain Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge back then and trophies came along to Old Trafford as if on a conveyor belt.
While it is way too early to herald a return of the “Fergie Time” glory days, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s perseverance with his tactics and mild-mannerisms may finally be bearing fruit.
For all City’s contrivances to hand their neighbours the points at Old Trafford on Sunday — goalkeeper Ederson was bafflingly dire between the sticks to gift-wrap both goals for United — the men in red were better than they have been for a long time in all departments on the field.
The much-maligned David de Gea shed his butterfingers for a safe pair of hands and marshalled a superb defensive line that soaked up everything City threw at it.
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The midfield looked controlled, and those passes that have recently been wayward were finding their men time and time again, leaving the City boys chasing shadows. Bruno Fernandes appears to be the man they were missing up front as he set up Anthony Martial for the opener (with an assist from Ederson), while Scott McTominay showed a cool head and fine finishing to take advantage of another Ederson blooper to seal the deal and start the party at Old Trafford.
Even the thought of handing arch-rivals and champions-in-waiting Liverpool even more distance at the top of the table could not dampen the spirits — or the belief that something special could be returning to United.
There have been many false dawns under Solskjaer already. A 13-game run after he took over from Jose Mourinho last season, a thumping of Chelsea to open this campaign and, of course, the victory over City were shunted into reality by dreadful losses to teams such as West Ham, Bournemouth and Watford.
But now United are stringing together some solid results, and showing some form that made Sunday’s result less of a surprise that the win at the Etihad. They are 10 games unbeaten in all competitions, up to fifth in the league and only three behind Chelsea, and through to the business end of the FA Cup and the Europa League.
Maybe — just maybe — “Fergie Time” can become “Ole’s Era” in the years to come.
With Chelsea’s 4-0 over Everton earlier in the day, much work will need to be done for United to make it into the Champions League next season and back among the big boys, but the fans, at least, are beginning to think it could now become a reality rather than a tenuous dream.