When was Manchester United the last top of the Premier League?
Manchester United have the chance to take the lead in the Premier League this week when they play their exceptional fixture against Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday night.
The game was originally scheduled to be played on the opening weekend of the season, but United’s involvement in the later stages of the delayed 2019/20 Europa League mini-tournament gave them an extra week at the start of the new campaign.
As it stands, United are behind leaders Liverpool on goal difference alone. Both teams have 33 points, with United actually winning more games in fewer attempts – 10 of 16 against nine for Liverpool in 17. Even a single point will send Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to the top of the table, even if they will be determined to take all three. and maintain their recent momentum.
In the Premier League, United have been unbeaten since November 1 and have taken 26 points out of the last 30 they have had since to move up the rankings.
For United, the improvement this season is here to see. They were 16th after losing their home opener to Crystal Palace and were still as low as 15th almost six weeks later when they lost a third game in six to Arsenal, which remains their last league loss.
The project that restarted when Solskjaer was appointed permanent director in March 2019 is proven to be working. Progress hasn’t always been swift, performance and tactical systems have yet to mature and the club have a lot of room for improvement in the transfer market. But there’s no question that things are much better than they were even a year ago.
United finished third last season from the bottom thanks to a flurry of late wins in the second half of the campaign, when they were only briefly above sixth in 2018/19 when Jose Mourinho was sacked and Solskjaer took over, initially on an interim basis.
United have spent virtually the entire 2017/18 Premier League in second place behind record-breaking Manchester City. But this campaign was also the last time a United side was at the top.
Under Mourinho, United started this season with back-to-back 4-0 wins over West Ham and Swansea to take the top spot. They stayed there with a 2-0 win over Leicester in their third game, but momentum briefly faltered with a 2-2 draw against Stoke to start in September.
United returned to victory a week later with a 4-0 beating against Everton, but with an identical record at Manchester City at that point, they were forced into second place in alphabetical order.
Three more wins kept United on par, behind only on goal difference, but a draw against Liverpool and then a disastrous loss at newly promoted Huddersfield gave their neighbors an advantage they never have abandoned. City were so relentless that season, winning 18 straight games between late August and late December, that the title race was over by Christmas.
It’s been three years and four months since Manchester United last topped the Premier League in September 2017. Now is their chance to return. At the time, they fell within a few weeks. This time around, they’ve made their way and that means more at this point in the season.
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