Manchester United can still win the Premier League this season, having only recently begun to hit their best form under new manager Louis Van Gaal.
The Red Devils began this campaign poorly with draws against Burnley and Sunderland was stunned and a deal was reached when losing five free at Leicester. However, a gradual recovery since then has culminated in them reaching 3rd spot heading into the Christmas fixtures.
Since Michael Carrick’s recovery from injury, they’ve put together a series of results that suggests they are legitimate title challengers to Manchester City and Chelsea. That is no coincidence. Ferguson Sir Alex Ferguson has recently praised Carrick as “the best midfielder in England”, and his excellent positional play and range of passing has been central to United’s good recent form.
Carrick is one of a long injury list this season at United, who have certainly had no luck in this regard. Ferguson himself said watch out for United once the squad is fit, and the six successive Premier league wins recently acquired appear to support this assertion. Carrick and Darren Fletcher are an invaluable backbone of experience that have been involved in title races before, important when seeking to integrate new players into English football such as Falcao.
For once United are not actually burdened by a huge wave expectation, with the mental pressure falling both Chelsea and Manchester City, both of whom expect themselves to win the league this year. Instead, United can push for the title knowing fully well that, similarly to Liverpool last year, their primary goal of finishing in the top four has already been secured.
United have reached third position despite widespread agreement that there is far more to come from them, particularly given their attacking firepower. Recently they won 2-1 at Southampton, then the division’s in-form team, despite by even Van Gaal’s admission not playing that well. Results like this show character, as did Robin Van Persie’s late equaliser at Chelsea, embodying the spirit of United in their late goals.
Manchester United will also not face the distractions of European football in the second half of the season, unlike close rivals Chelsea and Manchester City. Thus, similarly to Liverpool, who at this stage of last season were not widely considered serious contenders, United can use this advantage to keep their key players fresh. This lack of distractions should help them to finish the season strongly as the form team, whilst their challenges are bound to drop points eventually as injuries and fatigue from extra games hits home.
Thus surely if Manchester United can reach third after half the season, despite all these problems, they can climb higher as these issues subside?
United also have the advantage of money to burn in the January transfer window, and recent history suggested they won’t be afraid to use it. If spent wisely on shoring up their defence, this could equip Van Gaal with everything he needs for an unlikely title challenge.
The manager already has attacking players that are the envy of most managers worldwide, and the fearsome trio of Falcao, Van Persie, and Wayne Rooney are improving all the time. This, combined with money to spend, less injuries, improved form and a lack of European distractions mean that you would be foolish to write of Manchester United anytime soon.