Is This Manchester United's Easiest Title Win Ever?

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Is This Manchester United's Easiest Title Win Ever?
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Sir Alex with the Trophy he "Owns"

Manchester United won their first title in 1907/08 and had only a further six top division wins until Sir Alex Ferguson started to run away with the Premier League in 1992/3.

To decide whether this will be United's easiest win ever we need to look at much more than just points difference.

After all, although that first nine-point win was one of their biggest margins ever, there were only two points for a win in those days. The modern day equivalent would translate into a gap of 15 points over Aston Villa, with Manchester City a further point behind.

Football has changed out of all recognition in the 20-year history of the Premier League, let alone the last 100 years. And we're not just talking about heavy soggy footballs and mud-bath pitches in midwinter.

Apart from anything else, big money and the massive influx of overseas players have transformed the quality of the football and the intensity of competition.

One of the most noticeable differences from that first title over 100 years ago is that United lost nine of their matches and Aston Villa lost 12. 

So the competition was much more open and even with three points for a win, the gap between second top and second bottom would have been only 13 points. 

Compare that with the current Premier League table where the same gap is 36 points already and United are an astonishing 51 points ahead of QPR.

So how can we gauge whether this is United's easiest win?

The first thing to accept of course is that we are taking a snapshot with nine games still to play.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
United vs Everton April 2012

Three of those matches for United are against their top rivals, Chelsea, City and Arsenal. Throw in a few potential banana skins, starting at Sunderland on Saturday, and there is no foregone conclusion.

After all, look what happened last year. Wigan played out of their skins, beat United and survived by the skin of their teeth. City came back from an eight-point deficit. The rot started after United were 4-2 up against Everton at home.

So the first thing we have to assume is that United can win the title by at least their current margin.

But we cannot gauge the effectiveness of the achievement without considering how the opposition has performed.

But first, let's put those statistics to bed.

If United won the Premier League by their present margin of 15 points it would not be their biggest win ever.

Their best margin in the Football League was in 1955/56, under their previous greatest manager ever, Sir Matt Busby.

Indeed the two great Scottish knights of football have won 17 of United's 19 titles so far between them.

Considering that the club had faced bankruptcy and the ground had been bombed into oblivion in the Second World War, Sir Matt's first rebuilding job was extraordinary.

Gary M. Prior/Getty Images
Sir Matt Busby Statue at Old Trafford

His first wave of "Busby Babes" had already won the title in 1951/52 but in 1955/56 they squashed the opposition with the equivalent of a 16-point margin over Blackpool.

Sir Alex Ferguson's first title win in 1993/94 was with an impressive 92 points, heading off the charge of Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn Rovers.

But United's statistically biggest win to date has to be in 1999/2000, the year after the Treble.

A now mature "Fergie's Fledglings" not only ran away with the Premier League title by a massive 18 points over Arsenal. They were also an extraordinary 67 points ahead of bottom-placed Watford.

So the present team has a little more to do to trump that performance although it is by no means impossible. Given that they still have to play City on 8 April, if they won that, the current margin could also be 18 points.

Indeed the final outcome could well depend on whether their nearest rivals capitulate in the face of a near-impossible task of catching up.

The strength of the opposition

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Mancini Concedes?

It is very easy to recall better teams than the current crop  for every one of the "Big Five" except of course City.

Certainly the title race was a much closer affair in 2007/08 when the top three (United, Chelsea and Arsenal) finished within four points of each other.

That in itself shows what some people may already suspect and that is how far some teams have fallen away. Liverpool were only 11 points back in fourth place that year. The following season, they ran United all the way to the wire, losing by a mere four points.

Compare those performances of only four or five years ago with last season. While United and City slugged it out until the last minute of extra time on goal difference, Arsenal finished 19, Chelsea 25 and Liverpool 37 points back.

So the most impressive thing about this season's epic performance by United is that while they have leaped so far ahead of their cross-city rivals, the other big clubs have made no real progress whatsoever.

And while some people will point to Robin van Persie making the difference, that would be a harsh under-estimation of what Sir Alex has achieved having been hurt so badly by last season's collapse.

With just one key signing he has gelled his squad, including far too many players that have had "so-so" seasons, into arguably the most impressive team in many a year.

So is this United's easiest win?

From the point of view of their main rivals, the answer has to be a resounding Yes!

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
United Crush Arsenal in 2011/12

Frankly United have crushed them. Irrespective of three matches still to come, they have won all five of the matches they have played against Arsenal, Chelsea, City and Liverpool. Only resurgent Spurs have threatened them.

So you would have to concede that the competition has deteriorated. That suggestion is also backed up by the failure of any Premier League club to get past the last 16 of the Champions League.

Of course some of the matches haven't been easy, especially in the first half of the season. United conceded far too many goals and a host of "narrow squeaks".

Nevertheless, since they have had a full complement of defenders back from injury they have conceded far fewer goals, including none in their last five matches.

So the story has been one of scoring plenty in the first half and conceding few in the second.

Sir Alex was determined that United would not succumb on goal difference this season and that target has probably been achieved.

For the first few months it looked as if they might set a new goal-scoring record for the Premier League and indeed the top division. That is unlikely now. 69 so far only equates to 90 for the season.

In that epic 1999/2000 season, United scored 97 goals on their way to their 91 point total. So you would have to conclude that mathematically this was their best title win to date.

However, that season they drew seven matches and lost three. 

With nine matches still to go, United have also lost three but only drawn two matches. 

Irrespective of those three tough matches still to come, therefore, there is every prospect that this could turn out to be the easiest title ever. 

On a pro rata basis their 74 points to date translates into 97, the same as in 1999/2000. But if they can go the rest of the season unbeaten surely this will be their best ever; and a triumph for a manager whose passion is still there at 71 after a mere 26 years at the greatest club in the world.

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