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The Red Devils have endured an indifferent campaign under Jose Mourinho thus far.

However, there has been much cause for optimism around Old Trafford in recent weeks.

Five reasons why Manchester United fans can be optimisticThe Portuguese manager has understandably seen his fair share of criticism in his maiden season at the helm of Manchester United.

A strong start was quickly forgotten as United suffered a torrid run of results, winning just one league match throughout the entirety of September and October. Despite this, the performances were not as poor as the score lines suggested, and now that these have improved, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, with many positives visibly noticeable. United displaying new-found attacking edge

November has been somewhat of a turning point for Mourinho’s side

Although not starting the month well, with a 2-1 loss away to Fenerbahce, the Red Devils switched their inconsistency in the middle of the park into more mature, creative and controlling performances.

Since that defeat, United are undefeated in all competitions – winning three and drawing two – which could have easily been victories. They are doing this in convincing style as well, creating more chances and looking like more of a complete team. The midweek EFL Cup clash against West Ham was arguably their best overall performance for a while, and the second match in three games where they netted four times.

In comparison to last season under Louis van Gaal, Mourinho’s United boasts a more intimidating, attacking system. Van Gaal’s outfit averaged just seven key passes, eight chances created and 11 total shots per match in the league. Under the Portuguese so far, the side has averaged 12 key passes, 13 chances created and 17 total shots.

Despite being eight points off fourth-place Arsenal, the Mancunians are currently outperforming their rivals, as well as Tottenham in fifth. They are currently turning in their best attacking performances since a brief period toward the end of the Dutchman’s first season in charge at Old Trafford.

Return to form for key players

A lot has been made of Paul Pogba’s form since he returned to Manchester. He began well with a commanding performance against Southampton, however, failed to impose himself on matches in a similar manner shortly after.

As United have improved, though, so has Pogba. He has become one of the side’s chief architects and boasts better numbers than last season at Italian champions Juventus.

The Frenchman’s total passes per game have gone up from 48 to 71, with his total forward passes increasing from 28 to 46. As well as this, his average amount of key passes per 90 minutes has risen from 1.2 to 1.8, with the amount of chances created increasing from 1.5 to 1.9.

Another key figure under Mourinho who has hit form recently is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored five in all competitions in November after going throughout the whole of October without hitting the back of the net. Wayne Rooney has also put in better performances in recent weeks, scoring twice and assisting three in November.

Another worthy of note is Anthony Martial, who put in a Man of the Match performance during the midweek thrashing of West Ham – scoring twice and looking like his pacey, tricky self. If he can replicate similar form in the coming weeks, United will have another dimension to their attack.

Mkhitaryan back in first-team frame

For reasons unknown, the Armenian has barely featured in a red shirt after being named the Bundesliga Player of the Season for 2015-16. The 27-year-old has started two of his side’s last three games though, putting in a couple of astonishing performances. It is in these two matches where the Red Devils scored four.

The fact that the former Borussia Dortmund man is getting first-team opportunities is all the more reason for United fans to be optimistic, with the hope that more of his intelligent attacking play will be on show on a more consistent basis.

Defence beginning to shore up

When Ivorian defender Eric Bailly was confirmed injured following a challenge on Eden Hazard in a 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Mourinho’s former employers Chelsea, things looked extremely bleak for Manchester United’s defensive prospects.

Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling (who both endured criticism from the Portuguese manager for declaring themselves unfit to face Swansea), Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have all been in-and-out of the back-four, adding to the uncertainty surrounding that area of the pitch. Mourinho now, though, appears settled on a defensive partnership consisting of a fit Phil Jones – who, in particular, has been brilliant since his return – and Marcos Rojo.

The pair has not conceding more than a goal in a single match in the four games they have been partnered together during November, and it is now an area of the pitch that looks settled and solid.

Progression in cup and continental competitions

Mourinho’s charges are now in the semi-final of the EFL Cup where they will face Hull City, the weakest of the four teams to make it that far. They can also boast a victory against Manchester City in this competition. If United can claim this trophy, it will serve as a significant confidence booster in their quest to finish in the top four.

As well as this, all that is needed in the final matchday of Europa League action is a draw away to Ukrainian side Zorya in order to qualify for the round of 32. If results go Manchester United’s way, however, it is possible for them to finish as winners of Group A, where they would receive a more favourable draw.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Frank Garrasi for Outside 90
Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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