News Live Scores
Manchester United

Man Utd have their mojo back after addressing their greatest deficiency under Mourinho

11:00 GMT+3 02/09/2017
Manchester United celebrate Romelu Lukaku
The Red Devils endured a frustrating time in front of goal last season, but rediscovering their cutting edge has allowed them to flourish in 2017-18

COMMENT

As Kasper Schmeichel sprung to his right to beat away a penalty from Romelu Lukaku on Saturday, Manchester United supporters could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Their side may have burst out of the blocks with back-to-back 4-0 victories, earning them plenty of plaudits, but recent history has offered some harsh lessons when it comes to getting caught up in the emotion of a bright start.

Just last season, the Red Devils stumbled their way to a sixth-place finish in the Premier League on the back of 10 draws at Old Trafford.

An inability to kill games off cost United dear, with Jose Mourinho’s side often struggling to break down stubborn resistance – a combination of poor finishing and bad luck conspired against them.

The sight of Lukaku grimacing as he saw his 52nd-minute spot-kick saved against Leicester will have brought painful memories flooding back for the United faithful, with it impossible not to wonder: ‘Is it happening all over again?’

Mourinho’s class of 2017-18 are, however, a markedly different animal to that which was tamed far too often last term.

Some 18 minutes after Lukaku failed from 12 yards out, Marcus Rashford turned home from almost the exact same spot – cue relief all round and a second bundled effort from Marouane Fellaini for good measure.

Three wins, nine points, 10 goals and three clean sheets – life is rosy at the Theatre of Dreams once again.

Of course, it can be argued that United’s flying start to the season has been aided by the calibre of opposition they have faced – all in the bottom half of the table – but you can only beat what is put in front of you, and that proved tricky in 2016-17.

West Ham and Swansea both took points off the Red Devils last season, but both were swept aside with a minimum of fuss this time around.

That is because United have been able to address the one glaring deficiency which held them back during Mourinho’s debut campaign – their lack of cutting edge.

And, things could have been even better.

Last year, United ended the season with a rather dismal conversion rate of 12.36 per cent – a tally which placed them above just four sides, including all three of those that suffered relegation.

On home soil that figure dipped even lower to 10.7%, but this term it has soared back up to 22.22% while their overall effectiveness in front of goal has risen to 24.39% - the best in the division to date.

That is all very positive but, as mentioned, Mourinho knows that there is also the promise of more to come.

Only arch-rivals City have squandered more ‘big chances’ than United’s haul of five this term, while no side has struck the woodwork on more occasions – three times for the Red Devils so far.

There is still clearly work to do, but United have found a way of getting the job done – much like they once did under a legendary former boss.

United legend Bryan Robson certainly sees similarities there, with the ex-club captain telling PA Sport: “It always depends on injuries throughout the year, but as far as I am concerned since Sir Alex Ferguson left this is probably the strongest squad that I've seen. We've got pace, we've got power, but we've also got quality players. That helps to try and win titles.”

Talk of top-flight crowns may be a little premature but United have been impressive without being faultless, and that should concern their fellow title hopefuls.

The Red Devils appear to have their mojo back and the rest of the division now need to find a way of reeling them in.