Manchester United did not have a perfect start to the current Premier League campaign. David Moyes took over from the departing Alex Ferguson and faced an unenviable challenge of meeting the pressure of high expectation. The team lost three games of their initial eight and the former Everton manager’s critics began to sharpen their knives. The Red Devils were clearly imploding and after they had fallen to eighth place on the points table, the naysayers began to question their credentials and some even stressed that mid-table was where United really belonged.
But nine matches later, and importantly, nine unbeaten games later, United find themselves in fifth place, just five points adrift of table leaders, Arsenal. How did the transformation happen? To begin with, Arsenal’s lead at the top of the table was sustained in the absence of games with big teams such as Chelsea, Man City and Man United themselves. The luck of the draw did not favor Moyes whose wards faced off against the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, relatively early in the season.
Arsenal had been in a similar situation in 2008 when they blew a five point lead at the top of the table after an injury to their star striker. In the event the Gunners ended up in fourth place, at the end of the season. In the lead up to Arsenal’s match against United, Wayne Rooney drew attention to this fact. Given Gunners’ winning form and the perceived decline of United in the post-Ferguson era, Arsenal were expected to bank full three points from the game at Old Trafford. Liverpool had bearded the Red Devils in their den and Gunners had beaten the Merseysiders; ergo, Arsene Wenger’s men should beat David Moyes’ wards, went the argument.
But van Persie and Man United had other ideas and the home side emerged deserving 1-0 winners to bring themselves within five points of Arsenal who continue to lead the table. United have 20 points from 11 games, and apart from Arsenal, only Liverpool (23), Southampton (22) and Chelsea (21) are ahead of them on the table. It is not unrealistic to expect the Saints to drop down the table as the season wears on. With Arsenal yet to play Man City or Chelsea, the results of those games could have a dramatic effect on the hierarchy of teams on the points table. Consider also that United have upcoming games against Cardiff, Tottenham, Everton and Newcastle, all of which are there to be won, and it won’t be unrealistic to suggest that United may well be at the top of the table by Christmas.
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