Can Manchester United Win the Premiership?

Felix TangCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2008

One of the happiest moments in my life was seeing Manchester United regain the domestic title last year, after a four-year absence.

However, this season has not been an easy ride for United supporters.  Our defence for the crown has been up in the clouds, as Arsenal have posed a major—and I mean major—threat.

As a lifelong dedicated United fan, I hope they can achieve the extremely hard task of defending the Premiership, recently done by Chelsea from 2004 to 2006.

This year, Arsenal have just been amazing.  Their consistent form, both at home and away, is just unstoppable.  I don't see anything that can impede the youngest side in the Premiership.   Arsene Wenger is definitely one of the best managers in the EPL and Europe, aand is a mastermind tactician.

But with Arsenal two points ahead of Man U, the title race is wide open.

Unlike last season, when United were ahead for the large part of the season, Arsenal seem to be holding on as table-toppers in a close race very well.  I must admit I envy Arsenal's quick, free-flowing passing style, with teamwork evidently the key factor for its success. 

After the departure of Henry, a legend at Emirates, most people logically would tip Arsenal to be an offensively weakened side.  But even with the departure of such a inspirational figure, the side did not go down the drain. 

Eduardo, the new recruit of last summer, deserves much praise.  Although not a first-team player, his performances in the cups and sometimes in the league have shown he is of important value to the side.  A traditional box to box striker, his style of play was what Arsenal needed. 

Adebayor, a similar player, has also developed significantly.  Along with the attacking flair and pace brought from Hleb, Rosicky, Van Persie, and the youngster Walcott, look to seriously disrupt Manchester United's dreams of repeating.

And of course, I have reserved a section just for a special Arsenal player: Cesc Fabregas.  His development in the past two seasons have been significant.  Last season saw him mature well, and suggested he could be a replacement for Patrick Vieira. 

This season, he developed a great scoring touch.  Only at the young age of 20, his prime years are yet to come, and I'm sure he will develop into one of the world's greatest midfielders.

Reading up to this point, you might think I am a Gunners fan.  But I'm not.  I am just giving worthy praise to a side who have changed and up the game so much this season.  But now it is time to analyze United's performance this half-season.

A simple way to describe my evaluation of United's performance so far would be "good—but not good enough".  If the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea stayed at the same level like last season, United would be well in front.  But obviously these things don't happen in English football. The top teams especially strive to improve every year.  Arsenal's unlikely development has raised the bar for the title contenders.

With Liverpool virtually out of contention, and Chelsea lagging a bit behind, the top two will be fighting to their death to be top in England.

In my opinion, the slow start to United's season was one of the main factors why we are underperforming.  My heart sunk as I saw result after result where United dropped unnecessary points.

Secondly, as I have stressed in my previous articles, United have lost their goal-scoring  power.  Other fans might think this is nonsense, but United need another scoring machine to replace Ruud Van Nistelrooy. 

While Rooney and Tevez are similar players, who like to tuck in behind a bit and dribble at the attacking third, they are not the type of players that traditionally produce a lot of goals. 

Louis Saha, a more likely option, is more of a 'supersub,' and Fergie has said he will use him to change games.  Although Ronaldo is arguably the new scoring machine—having scored 23 goals last season—they are widely different players.

In addition, the long absence of key players such as Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves have rocked the defensive stability of the side.  Just looking at the statistics, United have the best defence, as they have conceded the fewest goals.

Although the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership is the best we've seen in years since Johnsen and Stam, when they tend to get a little nervous when under intense pressure. 

But when Hargreaves is there, he does his defensive duties, and protects the back four very well.  He will sorely be missed until his day of return.

Manchester United need to patch up many problems, and heading into the later stages of the season, they will need to cope with Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup matches simultaneously. 

This will be a test of endurance, determination and unity, and as our club names suggests, we must 'United' in one cause to defend the Premiership! 


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