With 6 wins on the trot – Mata and Rooney bagging three a piece and Van Persie scoring 4 during this spell – some pundits are suggesting that Utd may be contenders for the league title or at least runners-up. Is there any validity to such claims?
With the exception of the Hull game, the performances have been generally poor and without the luck (which deserted Moyes), the brilliance of De Gea, and RVP’s return to goal-scoring form, our points total would probably be closer to Liverpool’s. Our defence has been pretty shambolic, our midfield lacking in creativity, and our goal attempts have been the worst in living memory. So how can we possibly have title-winning potential?
Why Man Utd Could Win the Title This Season
First, all great teams grind out results when playing below their best. Utd’s last championship, a mere couple of years ago, was achieved with a multitude of sub-par performances, with key players such as Vidic and Rio often injured, and with Rooney playing well below his best.
Second, we have achieved our 6 consecutive wins without key players such as Di Maria, Falcao, Shaw, Rafael, Jones and Blind. Having most, if not all, of these players back can only be a positive, with the creativity of Di Maria, Falcao’s finishing, the attacking and defensive abilities of Rafael and Shaw, and the stability offered by Blind all promising to make us a stronger team.
LVG has managed to get the best out of underachieving players such as Young and Fellaini, and has had to deal with makeshift defences virtually every week. Once he can play a settled back 4 (Rafael, Jones, Rojo and Shaw), play a fit Falcao with Di Maria, Rooney, Van Persie and perhaps Carrick, Blind or Mata, we will be feared by every team, including Chelsea and Manchester City. A bench featuring Smalling, Januzaj, Fellaini, Herrera, Wilson, Mata or Blind would also serve us well.
Why Man Utd Probably Won’t Win the Title This Season
Our deficiencies in defence, and our failure to find a midfielder in the Keane/Viera/Matic mould, will see us exposed easily by the top teams, and the contenders for 3rd and 4th place. A weakened Southampton, a poor Liverpool and an average Everton side all could have and should have beaten us. Eventually, our luck will run out, De Gea will not be able to save everything thrown at him, and teams will be able to capitalize on our lack of a solid spine. Luck and clinical finishing can only take a team so far, and our vulnerabilities will be readily exploited by the best teams, whilst the likes of West Ham, Swansea, Newcastle, Spurs and Southampton may also still fancy their chances.
While it does us no harm to dream of catching Man City and Chelsea, we need to be realistic. Without a Hummels-quality centre back to shore up our defence and a box-to-box tackling midfielder to fill that enduring Keane-shaped hole, we can only realistically hope for third or fourth position come the beginning of May.
Where do you think Man Utd will finish this season? We’ve been running a poll since the season started, and currently 4th is the most popular option, with 31% of the vote. You can vote in the poll on the right of the page.