EPL: Revitalized Chelsea, Liverpool Could Put Spanner in Works for Man U

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IJanuary 28, 2011

FeSir Alex may soon start to feel the heat even more than usual
FeSir Alex may soon start to feel the heat even more than usualChris Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United sit pretty at present, some arrogant fans even saying that they are going to walk to the title, as there is nothing that can stop them. This imagined juggernaut is apparently supposed to roll through the English game in the next 15 rounds and remain undefeated as well as winning the Champions League and maintaining an FA Cup run.

Oh how deluded a little luck can make followers of teams and movements.

United have looked monumentally shaky on occasion and look well below par in terms of footing it with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barcelona, at present, are looking as if they will win everything they challenge for again.

Manchester United have for certain impressed on occasion and have been unplayable in several fixtures. They have though, been found terribly wanting as well, disjointed and lethargic, they have stumbled and staggered to victory. Some diabolical refereeing decisions in their favor are currently the only factor that has kept them undefeated.

United fans would have forgotten already Gary Neville's surgically performed demonstration of how to give away a penalty, and then at Blackpool Rafael's demonstration of how to get away with charging into someone at full pace in your own penalty area.

This is the reason they cannot be compared to really good sides of the past, because quite simply, they are not that good.

They do, however, rule the roost, and have a squad that is improving and morale that will be at exciting levels. Several players have built on last season—Berbatov and Nani, for example, have made drastic improvements in terms of where they were and what various pundits and fans were saying about them.

They have maintained a resolute quality in the standard of their defense, in particular the simply indefatigable Vidic and ever steady Van Der Sar, watertight defense being a pillar in any successful league campaign. Another pillar of support being the goals scored by Berbatov, who has proved the doubters were media brainwashed fools who could not see a good player in the Bulgarian.

The third pillar of course is Ferguson himself, always a competitor, always refining his technique and the execution of it, in order to get the best from what he has. The fourth pillar in this fanciful domicile of the league trophy is the team's ability to place fear in the hearts of opposition fans and players. 

This is where United have lacked this season. The opposition is just not as afraid as they have been in the past. The weaknesses have been seen and the veneer of superiority chinked. The only team that has really inspired fear this season was early-season Chelsea, who looked every bit the juggernaut until they literally fell to pieces that Ancelotti has slowly managed to reassemble.

The mention of Chelsea leads directly into the main premise of the piece.

Chelsea and Liverpool have become noticeably different sides in the last few weeks. The confidence is back and the teams are playing football again. Chelsea are by far the more convincing at present, but Liverpool's form has taken a turn that will have the Anfield squad fizzing as they prepare to make a run for the top four.

Chelsea certainly have a side that looks as though it could beat any team in Europe based on collective experience. Didier Drogba is back to his imperious best and Frank Lampard has started to fire up the engine room again.

The poor run of form they endured was amusing in how ridiculous it looked at times, Sunderland running them ragged on their home ground and the away loss to Wolves. The recent decapitation of Bolton was merciless though, and certainly has issued a statement of intent for the rest of the league that reignites trepidation of Chelsea that might have been on the wane. 

Liverpool look a quality side again and Kenny Dalglish has got the team and Anfield buzzing, the players seeming to walk onto the field now with a more anticipatory stride than they had had previously this season under the rather unfortunate Roy Hodgson.

Fernando Torres has regained his goal scoring touch and Steven Gerrard is back from injury, Pepe Reina looks impregnable again and Raul Meireles is becoming a world class signing, something the supporters can thank Hodgson for.

Glen Johnson is shutting up the yappers, who constantly demand his replacement, with excellent recent form in the last few games. Also impressive is the form of young Martin Kelly, who is looking to continue the Anfiled tradition of excellent defensive technique and know-how.

The problem for United is that they have to go and play at both Stamford Bridge and Anfield. These teams are no longer the sides that rolled over so listlessly in prior games this season, they are again world class footballing exponents, teams to really be extremely wary of.

United also have to play Chelsea at home, Arsenal away and this weekend play a Villa side that have a new goal scorer and a new found confidence. The other big game, of course, is the home game against Manchester City, which will be an interesting kettle of fish.

Manchester United could well falter terribly in the coming weeks, or else they will prove that they have what it takes. This season is still wide open despite the vainglorious boasts of the United horde. The revitalization of these two sides could well be the straw that breaks their stubbornly plodding donkey like trophy bid's back.

Of course, they could just keep going, on this haphazard undefeated tightrope walk and win another title; if they do, they will then be perhaps the most unconvincing champions in Premier League history—or of course, one of the most convincing, depending on how you arrange it in your mind and how results fall into place.

The close of the season cometh quickly, so steel yourselves for glory and vengeance, despair and triumph. These are the things which ignite the football lover's soul, and gazing on what is to come, there is ample opportunity for ignition.