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The Premier League title race assessed: Manchester United

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Now the league is ten games old, three teams look clear of the pack in terms of the title race, but which of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City are in the best position? In this piece, Nick Harris looks at Manchester United's chances.

A keeper crisis, a lack of fit defenders and no central midfielder fit to lace Paul Scholes' boots other than Scholes himself. Add into that an opening match defeat at Everton and losing the ultimate Manchester United 3-pointer 3-2 to Spurs at Old Trafford and you might think United have no chance in the title race this year, but they are top of the table after ten matches.

Ferguson's side have won the other eight matches they have played, and have shown plenty of fight in coming from behind on several occasions to pick up three points. They have already beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Chelsea, with Manchester City the only big side they have yet to play. Indeed the run of fixtures they now have coming up gives United a real chance to put themselves in a very strong position come the new year.

In the next five games United face Aston Villa, Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Reading. The cliché is that there are no easy games in the Premiership, but you can certainly see United picking up five wins from those matches. Having looked uncertain in the first couple of matches, Ferguson's side have come on strong recently, dominating Arsenal at Old Trafford and picking up three (slightly fortunate) points at Stamford Bridge.

The pairing of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie looks ominously good, and the Dutchman has carried his incredible form from last year into the first ten games of this season. With Antonio Valencia providing ammunition from the flank, and Rooney dropping deep to provide impetus through the centre, van Persie looks well supplied to keep his scoring run going.

However the weaknesses that Manchester United were charged with at the start of the season are still present, and the main threat to their title threat is probably their shaky defensive record. With so much attacking talent, they have so far aimed to overrun teams, and they have been very successful at this. However if they do failed to score they are likely to end up losing matches, as they have conceded in all but two of their Premier League matches so far.

You would expect that Ferguson will tighten up his side at some stage, United will need to grind out plenty of results throughout the season when they are not playing as well as they are now, if they cannot start producing clean sheets, they are unlikely to win the league.

Right now United look the favourites, and if they win their next few fixtures as comfortably as expected, they will be in an excellent position come Christmas.

The second half of the season is where Ferguson's side are traditionally strong, and if they pick up a couple of reinforcements in January, it's hard to see anyone else taking the title.

Will Manchester United win the league?

images: © Andrea Sartorati, © edwin11

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