SINGAPORE — What a difference four months make. Back in September, Manchester United fans were in despair after watching their club slump to a 0-4 mauling by Brentford.
It had seemed that there was little improvement within the dysfunctional squad after manager Erik ten Hag took over after an underwhelming sixth-place finish in the previous English Premier League (EPL) season.
Fast forward to this week, and Man United could overtake rivals Manchester City into second place in the league table, should they defeat Crystal Palace in their midweek clash. They are riding high on a five-match winning run, and looked like the United of old - disciplined, versatile and playing with verve and passion.
The fascinating transformation has added another wrinkle to the EPL title chase, as Man United are starting to make a title charge that most neutrals would not have predicted at the start of the season.
Bit by bit, ten Hag has rejuvenated the squad with astute transfers bringing in Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Cristian Eriksen, as well as promoting top young talents such as Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga.
But most importantly, he added by subtraction - letting a sulking Cristiano Ronaldo go has arguably been the biggest boost to the squad performance. It is no wonder that they have not dropped a point since the Portuguese superstar dropped his bombshell interview criticising the club and left in a huff.
Ronaldo's departure meant that ten Hag has all the authority to implement his progressive football ideas on the United squad, and the players have responded to his coaching by improving their performances in leaps and bounds.
The likes of Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Fred have been in fine fettle after being made to look like laughing stocks in the past few seasons. Together with the new signings, they have provided renewed optimism in Old Trafford that good times may be back after years of underachievement following Sir Alex Ferugson's retirement from management.
So, can they even win the EPL title in ten Hag's first season? That would be a far-fetched dream for most United die-hards, but in a season where many top teams are struggling for form - Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea are far from their best - Man United could just be able take advantage.
Check out the latest episode of the "Football Weekly" podcast show for more discussions on the rise of Man United.
For more football news, visit our Football page on Yahoo!