Manchester United: 6 Things It Will Take for United to Win the Treble Again
Whisper it, but Manchester United have as good a shot as they've had in a heck of a long time to replicate their famous treble win in the 1998/99 season.
A few weeks ago, I have to admit I wasn't feeling as confident:
We haven't even made it through one round of the FA Cup yet and there's already talk of a treble?? #ManUtd
— Max Towle (@MaxBentleyTowle) January 16, 2013
But with qualification to the fifth round of the FA Cup secure and a date with an increasingly fragile Real Madrid looming in the Champions League, I, like many fans of the Red Devils, am cautiously optimistic that it could happen this year.
Naturally, multiple things would have to happen for Sir Alex's side to win it all again, six of which are listed here.
Just don't go shouting about it from the rooftops...yet.
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An obvious one to kick us off, but a requisite necessary for Manchester United to triumph on all fronts come "squeeky bum time."
During the first half of the current season, injuries robbed Sir Alex Ferguson of several of his key players for extended periods of time.
Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Anderson, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia have all spent time on the sidelines, with the latter yet to regain his best form as a result.
If Rooney or Vidic, or even Robin van Persie or Michael Carrick were to go down hurt between now and May, I would seriously fear for the Red Devils' chances across the board.
Let's hope the worst is behind us.
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As previously mentioned, Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia has had a patchy season to date to say the least.
But fellow wide men Ashley Young and Nani have hardly been models of consistency either.
With the clinical finisher Robin van Persie to aim at, one would hope that a few more accurate crosses could make it into the penalty area.
Full-backs Patrice Evra and Rafael have stepped up in improving their attacking influence, but the onus must fall on those ahead of them.
On the flipside of the coin, Evra and Rafael must both improve their defensive awareness—the Red Devils have long looked like a side afraid of a decent crossing team.
Figure out How to Beat the Best
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Manchester United haven't made a significant statement against one of the continent's top clubs for quite a few years now.
Spanish side Barcelona instantly come to mind in this respect, and their dominant victories over the Red Devils in both the 2009 and 2011 final.
Some said Sir Alex was tactically outmatched by Pep Guardiola on both occasions, others that his side were simply outplayed by a better team. I would argue that both statements hold an element of truth.
With the Blaugrana currently firing on all cylinders, if United are to triumph in Europe's elite competition, a clash between the two seems inevitable in the later rounds.
There is also the potential challenge of the Bundesliga's best—Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich—not to mention the impending showdown with Real Madrid.
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An alarming trend that started last season has carried into this term, threatening to derail the Red Devils on numerous occasions.
United seem to struggle to play quality football for the full 90 minutes of games, often getting overrun by sides they really shouldn't have problems against.
The team has conceded far too many goals in the first 10 minutes of games, while the side has often allowed their opponents back into the game when in a winning position.
This seems a rather petty complaint considering the club's current league position, but it is an unsustainable trait that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
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Late-game heroics have defined the recent history of Manchester United Football Club.
The Red Devils are a team that never knows when it's beat—a team that doesn't stop playing until the final whistle is blown.
There will be moments of adversity for Sir Alex's side in the months to come, it's about what they do in those moments that will make all the difference when all is said and done.
The club has the quality to pull through—renowned clutch players such as Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez can be relied upon to come up big in the waning moments of games.
We fans would love it if United did things the easy way, but we know that will never be the case.
Moments of Magic
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OK, so this one doesn't really need to happen, but if Manchester United are to win it all this season, several moments of magic are surely destined to happen.
1998/99 was one of the most highlight reel-worthy seasons for any club in the history of the game.
There was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's late winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup, Ryan Giggs' transcendent goal against Arsenal in the same competition and the Roy Keane-inspired comeback over Juventus in the Champions League.
Not to mention Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer trumping Bayern Munich at the death of the UCL final in the most memorable three minutes ever played.
If the Red Devils are going to do it again in 2013, brace yourself for a wild ride.
Do you think it's too soon to start talking about a treble, or is it a real possibility this season?