Football: Are Manchester United Really in the Title Race?

Back in August, Manchester United lost their first two matches of the Premier League season. Mind you, these were a home game against Brighton and a trip to Brentford: not easy games, given how those sides have performed this season, but not ones where the team should have conceded six goals and scored just one. As the season progressed, there was improvement, but also controversy as global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo opened both barrels in a prime-time interview with Piers Morgan and was eventually released from his contract.

Fast forward six months, and the Red Devils sit three points behind neighbors Manchester City and a further two behind leaders Arsenal. With fourteen games left to play, they don’t have to face either of those sides and many of the bookmakers at are beginning to shorten odds on the team becoming Premier League champions. Is this a realistic call? Could Manchester United bounce back from a very unpromising beginning to the season and emerge with the most unlikely of league wins? Will the momentum of being in 4 cup competitions (As of Friday 24th February) help the Reds? Let’s look at the evidence.

Mathematically, they’re definitely in it

Arsenal currently sit top of the table and have a two-point lead over Manchester City and a game in hand. They could, technically, be five points clear if they win their additional game, and eight ahead of Manchester United. In the three games before their recent late win over Aston Villa, Arsenal picked up a single point. That’s how quickly eight points can evaporate, so with over a third of the season still to go and a lot of football still to be played, of course, United can win the title. They will need a lot to go their way, but the same is true of both the teams above them.

They need to negotiate some tricky fixtures

If Manchester United were to take maximum points from the remaining games in the season, it might be enough to win them the title, but they would need to see Manchester City drop three or four points and Arsenal drop more. Actually winning all of those games is going to be tricky, too. It will entail going to Liverpool, Brighton, Tottenham, and Newcastle among others. All of those clubs are more than decent, and will have their reasons for wanting the points themselves. So United will really need to hope that Arsenal and City have some blips in their form.

Being in a title race may not be what they need

Manchester United started this season with a new manager, Erik ten Hag, because they were awful last season. Somehow, they finished sixth in the table, but they lost twelve of their games and could barely string two wins together. They’ve been vastly improved this season, and a lot of that is down to ten Hag’s squad management. Pushing themselves to win the title, and potentially being disappointed if they don’t, would run the risk of obscuring the progress they have made this time around which, if sustained, would put them in a good position to really compete next season. So they should be looking to win every game – as any team would – but winning the title should not be a priority this season.

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