If Manchester United could bottle their end-of-year form, perhaps their struggles over the past decade would have long been consigned to history.
Substitute Marcus Rashford’s goal gave United a 1-0 victory over Wolves on Saturday, continuing a theme of strong form at this time of year.
The Red Devils have not lost their final league game in a calendar year since suffering a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in 2011, winning eight and drawing three of their 11 matches since.
Here, Stats Perform looks at United’s impressive run, as Erik ten Hag aims to mastermind a resurgence for the team who were last champions of England in the 2012-13 season.
Blackburn’s birthday blues for Ferguson
Alex Ferguson turned 70 on December 31, 2011. His team neglected to deliver a worthy present, though, as they stumbled to a 3-2 home defeat against Blackburn, who began the day at the foot of the Premier League.
United would have gone top with three points, usurping neighbours Manchester City, but Yakubu’s two goals put Blackburn into a shock 2-0 lead, and although Dimitar Berbatov replied with a double, Grant Hanley headed a winner for Steve Kean’s team.
Of those involved that day, two players remain at United, with David de Gea still first choice as goalkeeper. Phil Jones, the other survivor, was a player United picked up from Blackburn, expecting great things. He is still at United, but you would hardly know it, given Jones has not made a first-team appearance this season.
Come the end of the 2011-12 campaign, Manchester City took the title on goal difference from United, a first English league crown in 44 years, while Blackburn were relegated.
Ferguson’s birthday and New Year’s Eve celebrations began on a bum note, and United have made sure to finish the year in a more assured manner ever since.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester United win three consecutive away league games against Wolves for the first time in their history.
Marcus Rashford registers his 100th goal involvement in the Premier League (65 goals, 35 assists). pic.twitter.com/g3ime1sUeU
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) December 31, 2022
Signing off on a high
Ferguson’s last Christmas and New Year stretch as United boss saw his team harvest 10 points from four games from December 23 to January 1.
On their final outing in 2012, an own goal from Gareth McAuley and a late clincher from Robin van Persie secured a 2-0 win at home against West Brom on December 29.
That was the beginning of the 11-game unbeaten stretch in year-ending league games for United, and it was another important stepping stone on their march to winning the title by 11 points.
Since then, United have had year-end league wins against Norwich City, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth, Burnley (twice) and Wolves (twice), while managing draws against Tottenham, Chelsea and Southampton.
Is United’s run a record?
It’s not even a club record. United had a run of 13 unbeaten year-end league games between 1955 and 1967, so Ten Hag’s team have some way to go to beat that tally.
Manchester City put together a 14-game unbeaten streak in their final Premier League fixture of the year from 2002 to 2015. It came to an end on New Year’s Eve in 2016, when Georginio Wijnaldum’s early header earned Liverpool a 1-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s men at Anfield.