We are two months into the 2020-21 campaign, and still no clearer on an answer to the perennial question: Are Manchester United any good?
The case for: Convincing wins over last season’s Champions League finalists PSG and semi-finalists RB Leipzig, plus three away victories out of three in the Premier League.
Yep, it’s another almost laughably inconsistent season so far for United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
And it is the next month-and-a-half or so which could prove decisive for the Norwegian manager as speculation over his future continues to grow.
Despite seemingly being close to the chop almost every time they suffer a loss these days, sources close to the club maintain that Ed Woodward is determined to give Solskjaer more time.
Which is why the run-up to Christmas really could be make or break, with the shadow of Mauricio Pochettino continuing to loom large.
First things first: United simply have to start moving up the Premier League table as soon as possible.
They are currently languishing down in 14th place, yet due to the congested nature of the division this season they still remain only six points off fourth-placed Southampton with a game in hand.
A good run of results could see them quickly shooting up, and for the sake of their January transfer plans – and beyond – they need to be at least competing for a Champions League spot in order to convince some of their main targets to join. Footballers want to be convinced that a club is the right next step – too many question marks stop deals in their tracks.
Saturday’s home game against West Brom is surely considered must-win, and their fixture list remains fairly kind until the New Year, with only Manchester City to play of the ‘Big Six’.
Despite the shock loss to Basaksehir, United remain in a strong position in their Champions League group.
They sit top of Group H after three games, and four more points could be enough to seal qualification to the knockout stages.
While not even the most ardent United fan would consider them among the favourites for the tournament, a good run in the competition would be good for both morale and the purse strings.
Getting their revenge on Basaksehir at Old Trafford next Tuesday would see them with one foot in the last-16.
And finally, it may not be anywhere near their number one priority, but United have a Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Everton to look forward to on December 23.
With Liverpool knocked out and Arsenal and Manchester City facing each other in the last eight, this is a big opportunity for a first trophy under Solskjaer, especially if they then were to go on and draw the winners of Brentford v Newcastle in the semis, no disrespect to that pair.
The club’s last trophy came in 2017, and even if it is ‘only’ the League Cup, it is certainly a cup which could propel Solskjaer and his team onto bigger and better things.
With international football done until next year, now is the time where Solskjaer either swims and gets more than merely his head above water, or, finally, sinks.
In an ideal world, come New Years Eve, he and his side will be propelled up the table, into the last 16 of the Champions League and the semis of the Carabao Cup.
If it all goes pear-shaped, however, it would be no great surprise to see Solskjaer welcome in 2021 without a job.
From afar, a certain former Tottenham manager will be watching on with interest.
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