Manchester United’s refusal to accept defeat under any circumstances only means that the title is theirs to lose, says ESPN Star Sports' Andrew Leci
By Andrew Leci
As far as Manchester United supporters are concerned, the Barclays Premier League title (2012-13 season) is pretty much done and dusted.
Manchester City supporters, unfortunately for them, may be sharing the sentiments.
Seven points clear at the top of the table heading into the final round of fixtures in this calendar year, United have already put their fans through the wringer this season, from which they have emerged slightly mangled, but otherwise unscathed.
They may well bear the scars of having endured many rides on the emotional rollercoaster that makes a game of football such a quintessentially human experience, but rather than enervate, I would like to suggest that those scars have served to stimulate what appears to be turning into a campaign in which glory is just around the corner.
Nothing sums up Manchester United’s season better than Boxing Day’s match against Newcastle.
Having already proved themselves to be the masters of recovery, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men contrived to come from behind no less than three times in one match, and go on to win it with the kind of inevitability associated with night following day, a Kardashian appearing in a society magazine, and the disappointment of Mayan aficionados who didn’t think they’d be waking up on December the 22nd.
During half-time at Old Trafford, I said to those who bother listening to me at such times, “United will win this” – they were 2-1 down at the time.
When they went 3-2 down, my confidence was not shaken, “they’ll still win it – late goal from Hernandez…mark my words.”
United fans may feel that their club’s season to date has been rather more exciting than they (or their cardiologists) would have liked, but as a neutral, I would like to suggest that they embrace it with the fervour of an 8 year old on Christmas Day who’s just been given his first set of Lego.
Seasons like this don’t come around very often, and the ups and downs that United and their fans have already experienced, should remind us all why we are alive and what keeps us functioning. Plain sailing, while pleasant, doesn’t really stir the spirit.
With games against West Brom and Wigan coming up before the FA Cup gets into its 3rd round stride, Manchester United have opportunities to extend their lead at the top.
Worryingly, for every other team in the BPL, United traditionally tend to hit their straps in the second half of seasons, and pundits’ suggestions that they have yet to really get going in this campaign aren’t wildly wide of the mark.
I’ve lost count of the number of games this season in which United have conceded the first goal.
My statisticians tell me that of United’s 46 points to date, 24 of them have come from games in which they were behind. That, by the way, is nearly 5 times more points than they managed to recover from losing positions in the whole of the last league campaign.
What does this point to? Resilience; fighting spirit; determination; sheer bloody-mindedness…? All of the above, and a great deal more. What it comes down to mostly, is an indefatigable belief; in the players themselves, in their teammates, in the manager; in the fans, in everything associated with Manchester United Football Club. In winning.
The season is far from done and dusted – we’re only half way through for heaven’s sake – but Manchester City are experiencing problems of a not entirely unpredictable nature, while Chelsea have ground to make up under a manager who some fans are determined not to like, whatever success he may ultimately bring.
All of a sudden, the title race seems to have expanded to include three horses but none is in better shape, or showing better form heading round the New Year’s bend than Manchester United.
It’s theirs to win, and everyone else’s fate to sit around and marvel at how they manage to do it, so consistently, over so many years.
Catch Andrew Leci on The Verdict at 8pm on ESPN, and during the live match presentation of the Barclays Premier League