The statistics do not lie, apparently. The worst start to a season since 1986, fewer points after ten games than under David Moyes and alarm bells should be ringing. Yet for anyone actually watching the displays will appreciate there is little to be worried about. In fact, after the fourth consecutive derby defeat a sense of lingering promise to this season remains.
Cast your mind back to last season’s away derby. A 4-1 scoreline flattered United as they were opened up by a rampant Manchester City time and time again. In one of the most stomach churning ordeals in recent memory David Moyes had seemingly de-constructed a championship winning team. A season that promised much dipped into terminal decline and it was dire, painful viewing. The lights were on yet the exciting, visceral thrill of watching United was largely absent.
The damage was done and Louis van Gaal admitted that this was a reconstruction job and that the first three months would be a struggle. He’s no fool, he has been in a similar position before as it took until October to turn things around in his debut season at Bayern Munich. It will take time for the team to play the way he wants and the signs are encouraging.
Despite the humiliating defeats to Leicester and MK Dons this season has been fun so far. Matches have ebbed and flowed with each win proving hard fought. There are players to get bums off seats like the exhilarating Angel Di Maria and the endearing efforts of Radamel Falcao. In Van Gaal we have a manager that wants to take risks and has faith in youth as he shown by blooding Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and James Wilson.
There is a glorious unpredictability to United that will, hopefully with a bit of tinkering, be moulded into a winning team. At the moment there are genuine concerns about the defence but who cares when the team are playing penetrative, attacking football again. There are chances at both ends and for the time in two years the team genuinely scared a rival.
No team can legislate for an episode of brainfade from one of their defenders yet there is a calmness to this side that bodes well. Despite being down to ten men and a goal down against a talented team there was a poise to play the ball out from the back. The signs are there that the reconstruction is well underway.