Following their 1-0 defeat to Everton at Old Trafford in midweek ‘crisis’ talk has engulfed the reigning Premier League champions but Manchester United are much much closer to the title than they think.
This is the narrative of the year so far for the Red Devils: United won the Premier League in sensation style, their 20th league title, Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 years in charge, David Moyes was hired to replace him, he arrived in June with just 8 weeks to prepare for the new season and make new signings, he brought in Marouane Fellaini, United have won 6 games, drawn 4 and lost 4 games out of the 14 played to this point. That’s where we are now.
Many Red Devils fans may wish to look ahead to the future – January – but I am prepared to go out on a limb and assert my belief that their focus should be on the present in December, not the past nor the future. They are much much closer to the Premier League title than they think they are.
Firstly, United are 12 points off leaders Arsenal – that’s equivalent to four wins in terms of points. Meanwhile, Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Everton, Liverpool, and Tottenham all face each other in various games this month and United don’t face any of them until Spurs on New Year’s Day.
That means, by logic, every single one of those teams will likely drop points against each other in December – I would be extraordinarily surprised if any one of those clubs doesn’t drop at least two points before New Year.
United face Newcastle, Aston Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich – the latter two are just holding their heads above the drop zone, and all of them apart from Newcastle are below United in the bottom half of the table.
Leaders Arsenal play three teams in the top five and four teams in the top seven this month – in fact they play just one team (West Ham) that are not above Manchester United at present.
Will Arsenal drop 12 points in December? I doubt it but could they drop two or three points against one or both of City and Chelsea? Yes, quite easily – they dropped three points against United and Chelsea dropped two against United, as did Tottenham.
None of those teams will emerge with 15 points from five games in December. Not one of those teams has won all their last five games. Not one of those teams has won fives games in a row at all this season. It is so unlikely; the probability of even one of them achieving 15 points from the remaining fixtures of 2013 is extremely low. 1/100 probability that will happen – a 1% chance.
The probability for United to take 15 points from their last five games of the year is (even without considering the opposition) is 1/20 probability – 16.6% chance. The probability of United going unbeaten for the next five games is 76% chance. I would say it’s much more likely in reality given the current positions of their opposition.
Meanwhile, United have Robin van Persie back from injury as well as Phil Jones from suspension and Michael Carrick is expected back before New Year’s Day by which point United could be taking on a Tottenham side who may very well be below them in the table.
For example, away from the maths of it for a moment, say Arsenal lose to City draw with Chelsea but beat Everton, West Ham and Newcastle. They would have 44 points by New Year’s Day.
Say Chelsea beat Stoke, Crystal Palace, and Swansea but draw with Arsenal and Liverpool, they would be on 41 points by New Year’s Day. Say Liverpool beat West Ham and Cardiff but draw with Chelsea and lose at City they would be on 34 points and say City beat Arsenal, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Fulham and draw with Southampton at St Mary’s (they're away record is poor), they would be on 41 points and level on points Chelsea, three points behind the Gunners.
If United beat Villa, West Ham, Hull, Norwich and Newcastle they’d be on 37 points, just four points off Chelsea and City and seven points off Arsenal who they face again in February. If they build momentum in December, bring in a couple of signings in January and get results against the big six (not all wins necessarily) in the New Year, Manchester United could very well be on the road to the greatest comeback in the club’s history under David Moyes.
It’s not easy and, at the moment its speculative, of course, but the champions are so much closer to retaining the title than they believe they are and they’re going to need to start believing. To borrow a quote from the manager of the current leaders Arsenal, “If you don’t believe you can do it then you have no chance at all.”
image: © edwin11