The shift in momentum at Manchester United since Erik ten Hag assumed the managerial position last summer has been extraordinary, and gilt-edged success is emerging as a genuine possibility.
Last week’s monumental derby day triumph over Manchester City, winning 2-1 at Old Trafford courtesy of strikes from Bruno Fernandes and the resurgent Marcus Rashford, the Red Devils have now closed the gap on their imperious neighbours to a single point in the Premier League.
With nine successive victories across and the club indeed firing across all cylinders, still active in every competition available, there is an embedded sense of optimism that overflows from the brim at the Theatre of Dreams.
But now with a pivotal away clash in the league against Crystal Palace, Ten Hag must ensure cohesion remains gelled and energy levels stay relentless, preventing a lackadaisical display that will hamper the monumental strides taken across recent months.
With reports that Anthony Martial faces a race to find fitness following his withdrawal against City at the weekend, the talismanic door swings wide open to offer a platform for Wout Weghorst to make his debut for the club.
Signed from Burnley on a six-month loan deal – cutting his previous spell with Besiktas short – the 30-year-old Weghorst has been signed to provide the ambitious outfit with an imposing figure to lead the line following the mutual agreement to terminate Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with the club in November.
The £35k-per-week Weghorst offers a formidable 6 foot 6 presence to lead the line, and ranks within the top 16% of strikers in Europe’s top five leagues for aerials won over the past year.
And if he can continue his golden touch on the offensive front, United will flourish. This season, for Besiktas, the “pressing monster“, as lauded by Mark Goldbridge, has scored nine goals and registered four assists, with his hold-up play an enticing prospect for United’s pacy flankers as they look to use his stature to weave in behind backlines.
Palace have lost all three matches since the new year, and might see a continuation of the current woes that plague manager Patrick Vieira’s January, with United’s high-octane and fluid system more than capable of bypassing a defence that only kept one clean sheet in the league since October.
Victory on home soil against the Eagles on Wednesday night would cement the club’s stature firmly within the title race, and with United indeed searching for a tenth successive win, Weghorst could be vital in adding the dimension the attack so craves, and with the wealth of creativity and attacking prowess surrounding his centre-forward position, his debut might just bear fruit.