United lurch out in front

Well, after writing about about the relative weaknesses of the clubs going for the 2010/11 Premier League title, it seems as though Manchester United have stumbled forward and half-heartedly taken the league by the scruff of the neck by default.

After a couple of fairly mundane wins over West Brom and Stoke City, Ferguson’s wish-list for Wednesday night will have read a little something like:

– cosy night in

-nice glass of wine

-Arsenal to draw with City, and Chelsea and Spurs to lose

The wily Scot got his wishes, and a Liverpool defeat thrown in for good measure. Many in the media have suggested that United are not performing well yet still winning, and while they have an undoubted point in an aesthetic sense, United are yet to be beaten in 20 games this season.

Perhaps one of the reasons why it is difficult to pin United’s success down this season is because a sense of a United team itself is hard to define; nobody (least of all Sir Alex) can predict who will be playing for United on any given match-day, and practically every squad member has contributed to United’s position this season.

Javier Hernandez has been a revelatory signing for £7 million, and already has nine goals this season. The likes of Rafael, Anderson, Nani and Park have been in great form this season, and Dimitar Berbatov looks as though he finally understands the responsibilities of being at Old Trafford. The poor form of Wayne Rooney (the West Brom game aside) makes United’s position all the more shocking, yet the strength and harmony within the squad cannot be underestimated when looking for reasons for the club’s success so far.

In contrast, Arsenal have faced the familiar problems of defensive frailty and inconsistent finishing, Chelsea have been blighted by a smaller squad and age catching up with their increasingly injury-prone stars, and Spurs have gambled away points like a tourist in Las Vegas by playing (admittedly attractive and entertaining) attacking football that lacks a little of the nous required to win a title.

While this all sounds a little congratulatory, the race is from over; United still show a worrying propensity for throwing away leads, being guilty of the same sin as recently as Tuesday night against Stoke, yet coming back to win against both West Brom and Stoke suggests United may finally have turned a corner in this respect. If they can keep up their fine home form, and turn a few of those away draws into victories, then the title is theirs to lose.

Nobody else seems to want it at the moment anyway.

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