Manchester United on the rise though can they keep it up?
Manchester United are now 4/1 to win the Premier League with Coral, having reached the summit following a comprehensive 3-1 over Sunderland.
Much was made of their summer of spending, which concluded with a blockbuster £35m signing of Anthony Martial from Monaco.
While, at the time, he may not have been the striker or the big name that most fans had hoped for, evidence so far suggests that his arrival completes the jigsaw.
Louis van Gaal was playing chess while everyone else was playing chequers. Thinking three moves ahead, he must have known that Martial would get the best out of fellow new signing Memphis Depay; lo and behold, the duo work in harmony.
Operating in a tandem that isn’t dissimilar to Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney or Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, this is the latest partnership to flourish at United and they are barely out of second gear.
In the last two summers, Van Gaal has steadily rebuilt a squad that is capable of challenging once more, though he’s been doing it in stages. Bringing in Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo last summer provided a platform to build on, as Van Gaal stabilised a leaky defence.
Capturing Morgan Schneiderlin, who was arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League last season was a great coup and makes their midfield more durable and robust. Adding Bastian Schweinsteiger provides United with experience in the Champions League, and the World Cup winner adds a huge amount of influence as well as a calmness to the Red Devils’ play.
Van Gaal now has options. Michael Carrick, at the age of 34, is still a class act and him alongside Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin gives United a balanced combination, though with Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Herrera, he can decide to substitute refinement for physicality and directness if the occasion calls for it.
One thing that remains a headache is captain Wayne Rooney and what his best position is. Clearly, he is not a centre forward, which begs the question whether the club need another out-and-out striker, if Depay and Martial are deployed in the channels.
Bringing Matteo Darmian from Torino seems a savvy signing for £12m and he has given the team an equilibrium at full back, being just as good in defence as attack. Another inspired decision was to utilise Blind at centre half with the impressive Chris Smalling and the duo have since struck up a superb relationship.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments has been the injury to Shaw, who looked the real deal in the opening games, however Rojo is a more than capable option in this position, despite the fact that Darmian switched to the left for the match against Sunderland with Antonio Valencia deployed down the right.
The biggest success story so far though, without a doubt is Martial. All of a sudden the side look dynamic in attack, with the 19-year-old already showing enough potential become one of the best in the world and emulate Cristiano Ronaldo. While it is important for fans not to become too carried away, there are certainly encouraging signs.
It is the next month that will determine whether United have what it takes to win the league. They have tough fixtures including Everton and Arsenal away from home, plus a match against fierce rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.
United, historically, though have been the type of side who have got better as the season progresses, however, things are looking up, with Van Gaal taking them top of the Premier League for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.