Tuesday, 16 January 2018

United's Mission Improbable with 15 games left

We can't..... can we? Logic, history, common sense and downright realism would suggest that the Premier League title is already in the bag. It will indeed be coming back to Manchester, but surely into the hands of Pep Guardiola and his City side as United's quest for a first post-SAF title looks set to extend into a sixth season.
As the old saying goes, it's the hope that kills you. It takes a huge leap of the imagination to see City not winning the league from here. But United's win over Stoke coupled with City's defeat at Anfield - their first of the season - may just plant the smallest of pyschological doubts into the minds of Guardiola and his players. 12 points behind with 45 still to play for and 15 games to go.
Suddenly it doesn't sound quite so impossible after all. We're Manchester United - a club who pride ourselves on refusing to give in, fighting to the bitter end and making the impossible dream possible. A club that won an unprecendented treble in the dying embers of a Champions League final we had not played well in.
 The league is not over yet, so why give up. Until it becomes a mathematic certainty, we have to believe. If we do win the league from this position, it will be a never to be forgotten, talked about forever, against the odds victory that will be regarded as the greatest of all our Premier League titles. Of course, we're realistic enough to know that City are still red hot favourites and despite their defeat at Anfield, they remain in pole position 12 points clear at the summit. But history suggests that it would be foolish to count out United completely.

We've been both the victors and the victims in dramatic title collapses in the past. In the 1995-96 season, Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United side had stormed into a 17 point advantage in January, with 15 games to go. Que the most famous of all Premier League implosions. A run of five defeats in eight games enabled Alex Ferguson's United to catch and then overtake the Toon and we went on to win the title by four points. In the 2002-03 season, Arsenal led by eight points with seven to go and blew it to us. Then of course there's the season that we'll never be allowed to forget - no matter how hard we try. In the 2011/12, the Reds held a seemingly insurmountable eight point lead with six games left. The unthinkable happened as we lost to Wigan and City, and squandered a 4-2 lead to draw 4-4 with Everton. For the first time in Premier League history, the title was decided on goal difference, with the Reds pipped to the post by our neighbours in the most dramatic denouement of all.

Looking at their run in, City's next four games are at home to strugglers Newcastle and then West Brom before they travel to Burnley and then host Leicester. But then things get interesting for them with back-to-back ties against fellow top six sides Arsenal and Chelsea. Ever tricky trips to Everton and Spurs with our revenge mission to the swamp for the return meeting in early April. Pep's never had experience of the twists and turns of a Premier League run in, and stranger things have happened. Our upcoming trip to Spurs and the Etihad derby are our only remaining away visits to the other "top six" sides with Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all to visit Old Trafford.

It will be tough and a huge ask from here, but crazier things have happened - all we can do is keep winning, do our own job and ensure that our own house is in order.

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