Can Man United win the Premier League? Seven reasons why Louis van Gaal's side could yet triumph
Champions League qualification looked unlikely shortly after Christmas, but victory over Chelsea this weekend and a late title charge is on the cards.
Here are seven reasons why the Red Devils could claim a most unlikely Premier League title.
Manchester United are second in the form table behind Arsenal with both sides winning their last six Premier League matches. Unlike Arsene Wenger’s side, United don’t have the distraction of the FA Cup and can leapfrog Arsenal with victory at Chelsea on Saturday to move to within five points of Jose Mourinho’s side.
United have won 12 of their 18 matches this year with their last defeat in the league coming back in February at Swansea. While Louis van Gaal’s side were grinding out three points earlier in the season, more recently the wins and displays against Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City have proved they are gelling as a unit and are producing stylish performances to match.
United have the know-how
When it comes to winning Premier League titles, United have not only bought the T-shirt, they have been the ones to make the shirt. True in recent times they were a little premature to hang out the bunting in 2012 when boards heralding United were being readied for the presentation only for Manchester City to produce their ‘AGUEROOOO’ moment.
But they have more recent record at lifting the trophy (2013) in comparison to Chelsea (2010) while Mourinho hasn’t won the league title in England since 2006.
They finally have a fit squad
Chelsea faced QPR last weekend with just one recognised striker in Didier Drogba with injuries to Diego Costa and Loic Remy decimating their squad.
While United players were dropping like flies in the first half of the campaign, whether due to the rigours of Van Gaal’s training sessions or a bit of bad luck, United have nearly a squad with a clean bill of health for the season run-in.
Van Gaal has a settled formation
The Dutchman’s decision to settle on a formation after constantly re-jigging his line-up has helped the side gel as a unit - as Gary Neville explains.
We were always fixed in our formation. Louis van Gaal through necessity has had to change his formation to get different people in at different times. In the last four weeks he has settled into a 4-3-3. It has worked really well and the players looked comfortable in the system. He said at the start that his team would get better, they always get better and he has stuck to his word.
United’s big-game performances
United can pull out the stops when it counts. Even though they’ve lost their ‘Fergie time’ touch this season, they can still produce the big-game performances and grind out the right result when it matters most.
Van Gaal boasts a win percentage of 62.5 per cent in this season’s big games, claiming five wins out of eight against the top six. That bodes well for their trip to Stamford Bridge – with their last success coming back in October 2012 with a 3-2 victory.
United have an easier run-in – of sorts
Taking the Arsenal fixture out of the equation, United have a seemingly smoother run-in with trips to teams who already have one eye on their holiday destinations this summer.
After their showdown at Stamford Bridge, United travel to Everton and Crystal Palace while the visit of West Brom inbetween those two fixtures should hardly present Van Gaal’s side with many problems. Chelsea face a potentially awkward trip to the King Power Stadium and a Leicester side fighting for their lives while, come the last day of the season, Sunderland could head to the Bridge in desperate need of vital points to survive.
Yes, United could find themselves in an equally similar position on the last day against Hull but Steve Bruce’s side could go a long way to saving themselves with three points against Palace and Burnley to steer themselves out from danger before the season’s finale.
Never say never
United are the kings of improbable comebacks, whether it be in Premier League title races (overhauling Newcastle in 1996, Arsenal in 2003 and Liverpool in 2009) or in one-off big games (apparently the won some European trophy at the Nou Camp in 1999).
True, those revivals all sprung from teams managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, but the art of resurrection is now woven into the club's DNA - so write them off at your peril.