Following the Community Shield victory over Leicester at Wembley Manchester United, led by new boss Jose Mourinho, were also victorious in their opening three fixtures in the Premier League. Optimism at Old Trafford was further enhanced then during the end of the summer transfer window when United was able to attract their former golden boy, Paul Pogba, back to Old Trafford after 4 years in Turin with Juventus of Italy. The reds broke the world record fee to bring in the 23-year-old back where he called 'home' per ManUtd.com, as well as the arrivals of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly. All this excitement was within the month of August, and it began Mourinho's reign in the best possible way. Along with the new manager, the new signings created an elated atmosphere at Old Trafford. Opposition fans feared United's comeback to the top of the league, which brought back the feelings of the good times. Then, the following two months, it completely changed.
For the first time in Mourinho's managerial career, the Portuguese were defeated in three consecutive games. These defeats, including to long-term rival Pep Guardiola at Old Trafford, drained the enthusiasm built at Old Trafford. United bounced back from their misery when they progressed in the EFL Cup after a 3-1 victory at Northampton, followed by an emphatic 4-1 win over Leicester at home. A run of wins, mixed with a tonne of frustrating draws, and sporadic defeats meant that the mood in Manchester felt reminiscent of the previous three years.
November began with yet another loss, on this occasion to the hands of Fenerbahce in Istanbul, Turkey. On the weekend after, the Reds met Swansea in Wales, hoping to create an upturn in form due to their ever-growing distance from the top four. When the team sheet was released, the sight of Jones and Rojo paired together in central defence was miserable, to say the least. Two individuals who were reckless at times and had failed to perform to the standard required at Old Trafford are partly the reason why United have gained ground on their rivals. The duo's unlikely partnership has worked wonders so far, conceding just 6 goals since their partnership was established to the end of 2016.
Now, further up the field, arguably the most important change in tactics was switching to a midfield three of Carrick (holding), Herrera (right) and Pogba (left). Carrick's regular inclusion in the starting eleven meant that the vice-captain of the club brought calmness to the play of Jones and Rojo, as well as freeing up Pogba's defensive duties and allowing him to roam around to become the threat we expect. He may be 35-years-old, but Carrick remains an essential figure in Mourinho's squad. Herrera also has been a trusted character, quietly providing assistance in defence and attack to a high standard.
Lastly, the set-up of Manchester United's attack has finally brought the style of football reds fans wished for. The inclusion of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, after a string of impressive performances in the Europa League and EFL Cup. certainly added a wow-factor to a previously bland attack. The Armenians swift movements, ability on the ball and spectacular goals (you know which goal we're talking about) have lifted the crowd off their seats and caused Mourinho to label him 'phenomenal', as reported by Daily Mail. Ibrahimovic's recent spectacular form has contributed to United 8 of United's 16 goals from the Swansea fixture to the end of the calendar year, and the main man has also registered three assists in this run.
Whether it's a set-up Mourinho had stumbled on or his man-management skills producing the desired effect, Manchester United's new boss has altered the feeling at Old Trafford meaning that fans can leave the Theatre of Dreams feeling something they haven't experienced enough in recent times.