By Chris Harris
Five games, five wins and 14 goals - not bad for a team whose title credentials were questioned before a ball was kicked this season. Some wondered whether Manchester United would lack a cutting edge after the departure of Ruud van Nistelrooy but Louis Saha's prolific form and a rejuvenated Ryan Giggs have fired them to the top of the Premiership.
This weekend United welcome old rivals Arsenal to Old Trafford - a team they have not lost a competitive game against since February 2003. We asked Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News about United's excellent run against Arsenal, who will step in for the injured Giggs, why the title remains their burning ambition and the arrival of midfielder Michael Carrick.
THE STORY SO FAR
"The results have been good and so has their form, probably better than a lot of people expected. Many United fans were disappointed with the club's transfer activity, there were not as many signings as hoped, and there was a feeling that maybe United would get out of the traps slowly and Chelsea would be away, but it hasn't worked out that way. United have gained confidence from their own results and gained confidence from other teams dropping points. I wouldn't say they are in top gear but, although they couldn't have hand-picked better games than Watford and Fulham, the games still needed to be won. The attitude of the players seems more focused this year, they know exactly what they need to do."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Ryan Giggs has been exceptional, although it's hard to say why. He played well last year too - it was two or three years ago when some fans were having a go at him. Giggs used to rely on his speed off the mark and, although that hasn't really gone, he has also adapted his game. He uses his experience, he knows when to run and when not to run, and I think he relishes the fact that there are young lads around him. Giggs pulled his hamstring against Celtic in midweek so he won't play on Sunday, so Ronaldo will probably come in on the left unless the manager decides to play Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out wide."
"Michael Carrick has been quite well received by the fans. He has not done anything wrong but I wouldn't say he's made a major impact as yet. It has been a quiet introduction for him but the fans are starting to warm to him. He played some nice balls against Celtic and the fans can see he has a pass in him. He is one for the future and definitely a player United needed, although they also need a player like Owen Hargreaves, someone who can dig in and pass it simple. Carrick is not like that, he is more of a visionary. However, his partnership with Paul Scholes worked well against Celtic."
"The number of goals United have scored suggest that they haven't missed Ruud van Nistelrooy, but I'm sure there will be points in the season when the fans will say that 'Ruud would have scored that one'. People are reluctant to have a go now he's gone and I'm surprised how it all went for him, but some said his body language wasn't so clever and if you're not showing that kind of appetite to play for a club like United then you are better off going."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"The best-case scenario would be to win the title back. United haven't won it since 2003 having won it so often during the previous decade. They finished second last season and if they do the same this time they would like to take it to the last day. The title is a bigger priority than Europe. United fans like Europe and had a great time in 1999 but the Premiership is the one they want and the focus is really on that. The title has gone for the past three years so the appetite has come back. It means so much more when you haven't won it for a couple of years, especially when you don't expect to win it."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"I think anything less than last year would be a disappointment. United fans want to see the team go up a level. They made a good fist of a challenge to Chelsea last season but it was never going to be good enough. Yes they won the League Cup but that is almost a consolation prize for clubs like United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The worst-case scenario would be to finish outside the top three and flop in Europe like they did last year."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"It's hard to say why United have got such a good recent record against Arsenal. As a team Arsenal can beat anyone, including United, but maybe the rivalry became an issue. I think some of the edge has gone out of the fixture recently because there are new players on both sides and characters like Van Nistelrooy, Keane, Vieira and Keown are no longer there. There was something missing when the teams met last year, although it will always be a big match."
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Sep 2006