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Unbeaten since November,

Jose Mourinho’s side are finally beginning to look like potential title challengers.

Five steps to the Premier League title - Manchester UnitedHaving been made to pay for a slow start to the season – something that should cost them the ultimate domestic glory. However, as long as it is still mathematically possible, you cannot write off Manchester United.

Outside90 contributor Panos Kostopoulos has stated the case for each of the contenders, and the series begins today with the sixth placed Red Devils. These five steps must be fulfilled if Manchester United are to pull off a shock Premier League crown.

1. Pogba must continue to improve

The amount of money United spent for him last summer, proves Mourinho’s desire to build the team around him. The total sum might have been a bit excessive, but being at his early twenties, Pogba is beginning to showcase greater consistency.

Although being heavily criticised by the media and mocked on social media, according to Squawka, Pogba has produced more key passes (1.81 per game) and created more chances (1.95) for his team in the league than the previous couple of years in Turin.

With an 85% of pass completion he is close to outnumber the sum of successful passes he made last year (1271 to 1399). United’s game clearly depends on him and without his prowess they simply will not be in top four calculations, let alone the title.

2. Zlatan must finish the season with 25-30 Premier League goals

In 21 Premier League appearances, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has netted 14 times and laid on three assists.

While it is naive to expect such an output from a 35-year-old, it has been extremely well received from the Old Trafford faithful. With the squad lacking consistent avenues aside from the Swede’s obvious talents, his form must continue on it’s current trajectory.

3. Like Ibrahimovic, Carrick must continue to defy the ageing process

Michael Carrick definitely embodies the most essential cog in the team’s machine. It’s him who wears the captain’s armband when as Wayne Rooney has been made to be content with a squad role. Leadership is one quality at Carrick’s disposal, but his ability to connect United’s back and front half cohesively is the reason why United fans adore him.

With him on the pitch United simply don’t lose, collecting 2.65 points per game in 17 matches Carrick has featured in this season. At 35, his contribution relies on more rest than in the decade that preceded it, but Mourinho has enough options to adequately cover his absence.

4. Mourinho must ignore criticism

In 2004, he crowned himself as the ‘Special One’ and has had to carry this burden ever since. Not that it’s worked out too badly for him. since

According to transfermarkt, his current points per game ratio (2.09) is higher than the one he produced in his second tenure at Chelsea (1.96), but yet it’s worse than what he has enjoyed during his previous spells at Chelsea (2.22), Real Madrid (2.30), Porto (2.10) and Inter (2.12). Only if he manages to absorb media criticism and increase his success ratio, Mourinho can get Manchester United’s title bid back on track.

He must also regain his nous in the ‘big’ games, starting on February 27 against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

5. A bit of luck.. Okay, a lot of luck

Do you believe in miracles? Leicester City’s squad certainly did and lifted silverware come season’s end.

Aside from fulfilling each of the steps above, a massive slip from Chelsea is essential. The gap to second has been clawed back to six points, and a winning run could see them move to within touching distance of Antonio Conte’s side.

With 16 games to play, anything is still possible, but United must capitalise on their dominance in order to steer clear of more costly dropped points.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Panos Kostopoulos Twitter: @Panos88K
for Outside 90
Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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