Thierry Henry made the bold claim that Man Utd remind him of his fabled Invincibles Arsenal side after they beat West Ham 4-0 at the weekend. Henry’s team finished the season unbeaten as they romped to the title in 2003-04, and he said he saw a similar blend of power and intelligence in the current Man Utd crop. That could be music to the ears of Jose Mourinho, who may well have put together a side capable of continuing his remarkable run of always winning the title in his second season in charge at a club. But how do they stack up against The Invincibles?
David De Gea has proven himself to be the best goalkeeper in the Premiership over several seasons and it is hard to dispute that. Chelsea fans could make a case for Thibaut Courtois, but De Gea’s sensational shot stopping agility gives him the edge. He is definitely better than 2004 Arsenal counterpart Jens Lehmann.
Arsenal had some real Premiership titans at the back when they won the title in 2004 as Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole enjoyed trophy laden careers and were England stalwarts for many a year. Back then Kolo Toure was also in his prime and Arsenal had a decent right-back in Lauren, so, all in all, it was a formidable unit that conceded just 26 goals all season. But last season Utd conceded just 29 goals so they are not far off and if they tighten things up a bit this season they could better that record. They may lack the individual brilliance of the likes of Campbell or Cole, but Mourinho has them extremely well drilled and in Eric Bailly, they have a very strong lynchpin.
The typical image associated with Arsenal’s title winning era was Patrick Vieira marauding forward like a juggernaut. Former world record signing Paul Pogba could be his heir apparent as he has similar athleticism, muscularity, energy and dribbling ability. Playing next to Gilberto Silva freed him up and Nemanja Matic can play that role for Utd to a tee.
Rewind 14 years and Arsenal were terrifying going forwards. Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg formed an irresistible quartet, full of pace, power, deft touches, imperious movement and deadly finishing. Right now it is hard to say that Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are as good as them. After all, Henry is regularly voted the greatest Premiership player of all time. Lukaku has a great deal of potential, but he is not at that level yet. He is also more of a Didier Drogba type, but he does bring a lot of skilful muscularity to proceedings. Potential is the key word associated with Rashford too as he could be one of the greatest forwards we have ever seen, but it is early days and he has to work hard at it. Last season Utd scored just 54 goals, more than 20 fewer than all five teams that finished above them and 19 fewer than Arsenal in 2003-04. Mourinho will not care too much about comparisons to teams of yesteryear, but if he wants to emulate their success he needs to foster more creativity and a huge amount of pressure is now on Mata and Mkhitaryan.
It is far too early to say that Man Utd are the new Invincibles but the marauding muscularity of Pogba and Lukaku and the diligence of Matic certainly brings that team to mind. With Chelsea faltering Mourinho is in a great position to continue his amazing second season record and it might be worth backing them. You can review the odds at the best betting sites before wagering and choose one you like the look of, but Man Utd look solid and sharp and could go on to enjoy a great season. As for Arsenal, Henry says they look “predictable” and does not envisage great things. Man City will provide a stern challenge, as will Tottenham, but nobody looked stronger than Utd on the opening day of the season and if they keep that up then glory awaits.
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