Where does this Manchester United side rank among the past greats?

Manchester United look favourites to win the Premier League in 2011 after climbing to the top of the table with games in hand and having gone the first half of the season unbeaten. Without a doubt it has been a superb turnaround from Sir Alex Ferguson and his men. Many wrote them off after their form in the first few weeks of the season and even more so after Wayne Rooney’s transfer request in October. However, there is something not quite right with this Manchester United squad. They are a team that have continued to go through the motions this seasons, and if they were to win the Premier League, could they ever be classed as a top side?

That is what this article is all about. The way the Premier League has gone this season, there is no reason why Manchester United could not win the league, but would that be because Arsenal or Chelsea have thrown it away at some point? If we look back three years, at what Manchester United had, and what they have now; the strike force consisted of the world’s best player, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney. Manchester United had a fit Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the defence and Edwin van der Sar, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were three years younger. The squad has changed considerably in terms of players leaving, but has the quality come through the Old Trafford gates? In terms of promising youngsters it has, but Manchester United didn’t lose promising youngsters. They lost world class players.

In terms of whether this Manchester United side would be the most average side to win the Premier League, I have to lean on the side that it would be. You can’t compare sides from 1995 to now. That is unfair and there is simply no measurement to be accurate. The best way to examine such is to look at the squads of the time. When Blackburn won the Premier League title, Liverpool and Manchester United didn’t have the quality that was on show at Ewood Park. Blackburn had the best players that season, boasting Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, Tim Flowers and Colin Hendry. All four players would have got into the starting line ups of Liverpool and Manchester United at the time. If we move onto this season, things are much the same. Manchester United do not have the best squad in the Premier League and how many of Manchester United’s players would Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City take above what they have? A fit, on fire Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic I expect.

There is no divine right that Manchester United should have the best squad or win the Premier League. Over the years clubs have caught them up, and that is only good for the Premier League. The point is this. If this Manchester United side, a side that hasn’t hit anything like a hot spell so far this season, wins the Premier League then Arsenal and Chelsea will only have themselves to blame. Manchester United have experience on their side, but Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti boast the better players. A midfield three of Anderson, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher or Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien. I know what trio I would pick.

One thing that should not be taken away from this Manchester United side is their resolve. They have fought back from a lot already this season and they have a spirit that Manchester United fans expect from their players. They have gone unbeaten, and what a fantastic achievement that has been especially this season. People said it about the Arsenal invincible team. They hadn’t played well in the first half, but were unbeaten. Manchester United could kick on in the second half of the season and win the Premier League at a canter.

The away form mixed with the qualities of both their squad and squads around them suggest that won’t happen. If Manchester United win the Premier League they will deserve it, but the clubs fighting with them will see it as a massive opportunity missed come May.

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