This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Amidst Manchester United’s rather disappointing campaign last season, the big talking points largely surrounded some of the club’s poor performances and results against some of the lesser lights. Ending the Premier League campaign with a draw and defeat to already-relegated Huddersfield and Cardiff certainly isn’t the stuff of top-four contenders, let alone champions.
But another area that should concern the club just as much is their record against their fellow ‘big six’ sides. Whether they were winning the league at a canter under Sir Alex Ferguson or even in the immediate aftermath of the iconic Scot’s departure, United favoured particularly well in the ‘mini league’ against their rivals.
Indeed, even as recently as Louis van Gaal’s time in charge during the 2015/2016 season, the Red Devils finished ahead of their counterparts with 18 points from ten games.
Last season however, saw a combination of Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lead United to just one solitary victory (against Tottenham), and a total of seven points across their ten matches. Their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City on the other hand racked up 25. And therein lies the task ahead for the Red Devils.
Solskjaer’s side finished five points off fourth-placed Spurs, and as much as results against the Premier League’s lower sides hurt, it was those against the fellow big teams that stung even more. The proverbial ‘six-pointers’ are generally synonymous with relegation battles, but it means just as much in the race for Champions League qualification.
Perhaps more so than in any other season, United looked completely out thought and outclassed in their games against their rivals, and need to rethink their strategy for the big clashes.
If the Red Devils can completely overturn their malaise against the rest of the ‘big six’, then a return to the bright lights of Champions League football will firmly be in their grasp.