Why Manchester United Won't Relinquish the Top EPL Spot Again This Season
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There is no other team in the Premier League that has the strength of character as Manchester United. This is why, with a seven-point lead at the top of the EPL, there will be no last-game drama that sees the trophy go to a rival.
However much you might loathe them when they beat your teams, their success is built on the belief that the team is more important than the names within.
In a free-spending age where a high-profile player is often considered better than the right player, this is something that deserves respect.
It's become something of a cliché to state this fact, but you can never count United out. When they seem defeated they find the will to get back in the game and come away with something from it.
The defence has been a problem for them this year and they have conceded 28 goals at this stage of the season. In contrast, last year's entire campaign saw them concede 33. This porous defensive effort occurred once again on Boxing Day and Newcastle almost made them pay for it.
The key word in that last paragraph is “almost.”
Will Manchester United stay top for the rest of the season?
Despite going behind on three separate occasions, United found the resolve to battle back and actually win the game. A 90th-minute goal from Javier Hernandez earned his team the points on a day when Newcastle did everything right and United looked sluggish.
As was reported by The Daily Mail, Sir Alex Ferguson's men have won eight league games from losing positions at the halfway point of the season, which is a testament to the spirit the manager has instilled in his team over the years,
When each game is over, the manner of victory is irrelevant to the victory itself. The fact that United have looked second best in some of their games this year doesn't change the fact that they are seven points clear of Manchester City.
The signing of Robin van Persie looks more impressive every game. Ferguson couldn't have known that his defence would leak this many goals, but van Persie has ensured it is a secondary concern.
Losing the title on goal difference obviously got to Ferguson and he made a bold move to bring the Dutch striker to Manchester. At first, I saw it as desperation and buying for the present at the expense of the future, but van Persie's goals have already saved United's season.
Yes, the defence makes them seem vulnerable to conceding, but opposing teams still have to stop United scoring in return. That's not an easy trick to master, as van Persie's 13 league goals will testify.
Dwelling on the hypothetical isn't of much value in football, but sometimes it helps to measure worth. On Dec. 13, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on United's league position without van Persie's goals.
The team would be 17 points off the pace and languishing in 10th place.
Their 2012/13 campaign hasn't simply been one of resilience and persistence, however. This season has been patchy for a lot of teams, particularly the blue half of Manchester.
There have been times when City have looked majestic and free-flowing, like true champions and almost unbeatable as they stride forward. Other times they look flat and uninspired, like they have lost the fire that saw them capture their first-ever EPL title.
Even casting aside the poor Champions League performance, this year hasn't gone the way many people expected. The sheer quality of players in the side ensure they are never far from the top of the league, but inconsistency has cost them dearly.
Chelsea, too, shot themselves in the foot with erratic play and managerial shuffling that deprived them of rhythm and stability. Both teams below United might believe they can win it, but seven points isn't something United will give up.
Their starting lineup is filled with players who have title winners' medals. There is no panicking with this amount of prior success within the ranks. They trust in their ability to score goals and stick to the plan set out by their manager.
Patience is something only learned with experience, and United have plenty of both. Even though their play has occasionally been counter-productive, there is a crushing inevitability about the result when they mount a late charge on goal.
We've seen it throughout Ferguson's reign, and every new player buys into the system. The message that no one beats Manchester United is backed up by a refusal to let the game slip and a complete dedication to the team.
Each game they've chased down to win this year is a microcosm of the season, and in a year where no team has dominated proceedings, United are the only side to really earn every victory, even if it comes in spite of the overall performance.
They simply won't allow this seven-point lead to be chased down in the second half of the season. If anything, that lead will only increase.
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