Manchester United: Can the Red Devils defend their Crown?

Felix TangCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2008

As we approach the tail-end of the Barclays Premier League season, one would expect conclusions to who will be crowned champions.

With only 6 games to go, Manchester United are top the table with a healthy lead of six points over Arsenal, and seven over Chelsea who still have to play today (Sunday).

United are on a run of magnificent form after a four goal rout of Aston Villa, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the opener, and assisting the other three. Wayne Rooney also answered his critics by ending his goal drought, scoring two goals at Old Trafford for the first time since last October.

So does this cap off another splendid season for the Red Devils?

Well, not just yet some may say.

Although statistically Manchester United are by a long stretch the best team in the Premier League, winning the title nine times since the formation of the league in 1992, Arsenal and Chelsea still stand a chance - although not a particularly big one.

Arsenal have suffered their worst run of results in many years, not being able to win in five games. This run ended recently with their classic comeback 3-2 win at Bolton, but this, in my opinion is not enough of a turning point for Arsenal. 

After watching the match highlights, Arsenal's victory was particularly unconvincing.  I thought a draw would be more appropriate as they needed a Jlloyd Samuel own goal in the 90th minute to come out winners. Nevertheless, their inspirational comeback has led Wenger and his men to hang on to their faint title hopes.

Thinking back, Arsenal must be kicking themselves for throwing a five-point lead over the past two months. In all, Arsenal do not have the incredible depth in the squad United have.

Chelsea seems to stand a greater chance to overcome the Red Devils. However, with not many matches left, time is of the essence. 

I did not value Chelsea that highly as strong title contenders until last week when they came back to beat Arsenal. This is surely the turning point for Chelsea, and as Fergie says, the encounter with Chelsea later in April will be crucial.

To be truthful, Manchester United's surge in the title race is also due to their poor performance at the start of the season. If it was not for their shaky start, they could have easily led for the majority of the campaign, and not trail the Gunners till now.

Nevertheless, United's consistency in results is largely due to the incredible goalscoring record of Cristiano Ronaldo. Carrying on from last season's great form, he has surpassed George Best's goal record in a season, and is favourite to end up top scorer of the league.

Watching him on the telly is simply a joy to watch. Not only his superb scoring ability, but his great touch, and assists show that he is not just "a bag of tricks."

Credit must also be given to United's back four and goalkeeper as they have only let in 15 goals this season, the lowest in the whole league.

The Ferdinand-Vidic central defence partnership is as rock solid as ever, with fullbacks Wes Brown and Patrice Evra also having the hunger to go up and assist in attacks. 

Edwin Van Der Sar proves even at the old age of 37, that he is still one of the outstanding goalkeepers in the world. His understudies Tomasz Kuzsack and Ben Foster have also excelled in their cameo appearances this season.

In the centre of midfield, veteran Paul Scholes deserves special praise for his experience and vision when using the ball, often providing assists that are almost of perfection.  Although he does not take those mid-range shots as he did in his earlier days, other strengths of his have compensated for that.

Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and newcomers Owen Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson have also enjoyed a relatively good season.


In terms of attack, although Tevez and Rooney do not form the traditional strike partnership of one fast and one tall attacker, they have created a mutual understanding for each other and have helped each other out to create exquisite goals. 

As a die-hard United fan, I hope United can go on all the way and defend their crown, but of course, "never say never" about Chelsea, and maybe Arsenal.