When Manchester United demolished Arsenal at the Emirates over the weekend, it was the first time this season that they looked genuinely capable of making history and winning a fourth consecutive league title. Up until that point, United have been a hardworking side, brushing aside most of the weaker teams but struggling when they were really tested. Earlier on in the season they scraped wins against Manchester City and Arsenal but fell short against Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa. At the Emirates they took on an in-form Arsenal side and dominated them in a manner similar to last year’s Champions League semi-final; these two performances have probably been United’s best in the last 12 months.
Despite a crippling injury list and a lack of real dynamism in midfield, Sir Alex Ferguson has kept his side within touching distance of Chelsea and they are now poised to make a concerted push from now until the end of the season. He has all but abandoned the 4-4-2 formation for big games given that neither Owen nor Berbatov look capable of making an impact; but with Wayne Rooney in blistering form, the 4-5-1 formation makes United a real threat. The extra body in midfield gives them an added dimension and goes some way to making up for the lack of a top quality central midfielder.
The manner in which they ripped Arsenal apart was hugely impressive; they appear top be gaining momentum after the win over City in the Carling Cup and with Chelsea failing to win their game in hand, the title race is very much on. There is no question that United are reliant on Rooney; there is no adequate substitute and while burnout has been talked about, it is more of a concern for England than for United. As long as he remains fit; he looks capable of hitting 30 league goals this season and with him as the spearhead; United’s title challenge looks healthy.
It is a credit to Ferguson that he has managed to keep his side competitive after the loss of Ronaldo. He has benefitted from the fact the league as a whole is perhaps not as strong as it once was. United have not had to be at their best to beat the majority of Premier League sides and there are only a handful of teams that they really need to raise the game for. The resurgence of Scholes and the return to fitness of Park have helped, United are a team filled with winners; Chelsea are a stronger team but have gone a long time without tasting real glory. The winning mentality remains at Old Trafford and it would be no surprise to see them crowned as the kings of England once again.