Manchester United have made an indifferent start to the Premier League season, but it would be foolish to rule them out of the title race at this early stage.
Six points from their opening four games is certainly a disappointing return and manager Jose Mourinho will be eager to see better performances over the coming weeks.
The latest EPL odds predict that United could finish top of the pile. But of course, predictions may change over the next few weeks with other teams keeping up.
Watford (A), Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), West Ham United (A) and Newcastle United (H) would normally represent a favourable set of fixtures, and it’s a run for United that could quite feasibly yield 12 points.
The Red Devils boast an excellent recent record against each of those four sides and they should be confident of picking up a win in each game.
It has been well-documented that Mourinho was unhappy with the club’s failure to land his chosen transfer targets this summer and it has clearly had an impact on their early season form.
The United boss was eager to add a top-class centre-half to his squad and three goals conceded against both Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur highlighted that defensive lapses will be punished in the Premier League.
However, Mourinho could well have found a temporary to solution to the problem via an unlikely source.
His decision to keep Marouane Fellaini at Old Trafford didn’t meet with universal approval amongst United fans, but the midfielder showed the wisdom of that choice at Burnley on Sunday.
The Belgian had an excellent game in a deep-lying role at Turf Moor, providing protection in front of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof.
His presence also gave Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba a platform to dominate midfield and United suddenly looked a much more cohesive outfit.
A 2-0 victory over a Burnley side who looked relegation candidates is nothing to get carried away about, but the signs were definitely positive.
With Arsenal still looking a long way short of having a side capable of challenging for the title, United’s main rivals for top spot are Manchester City, Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea.
City are clearly the team to beat once again, but they have looked less impressive without Kevin De Bruyne and his absence could yet have an impact.
Spurs showed they are capable of throwing in a dodgy result with their defeat at Watford, while Liverpool’s four victories have come against sides you would expect them to beat.
New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has made an impressive start to life at Stamford Bridge, but they haven’t yet reached a level that should make a club of United’s stature fearful.
Four wins from their next four league games would put a different complexion on United’s season and those lengthy odds to win the title would quickly become a distant memory.