When we finished last season as Champions for the 19th time with a total of 80 points, we were nine clear of our nearest rivals Chelsea and Manchester City, who in the end, just did not have enough to beat us to the title.
Yet with City spending and adding to a squad that already has a huge amount of quality, and Chelsea being our main challengers for the past few seasons, not to mention the fact there are a huge amount of quality teams in the premier league, just what will it take to reach title number 20?
The ever great SAF has set us a target of 84 points, which he feels will be enough to clinch the title come the end of May. ‘Increasing competition in a really tough league’ as the great man puts it means that United cannot rest on their laurels and coast due to past success. Part of keeping the club so successful for such a sustained period of time has been to make sure that no player becomes complacent and the will to win stays as strong as ever. When you consider players such as Ryan Giggs, who is the record holder for premier league titles, and look at his desire to succeed and stay at the top of the tree, it is astonishing, and Fergie is a huge part of that.
The summer spending done by United has been both necessary and shrewd, replacing the aging and outgoing players – something that Chelsea have failed to do – and getting in young blood to bolster the ranks. United now have a squad that is as strong as any, if not stronger, and even if no replacement for Scholes comes in, the Premier League favourites still have to be United.
Chelsea, should Torres fail to settle and score enough goals to both sustain their title challenge and justify his hefty price tag, will struggle, not to mention the fact that their midfield is looking far shakier than in seasons gone by. The African Cup of Nations will heavily affect the Londoner’s, with Drogba, Kalou, Mikel and Essien departing for the long hard winter months. City will also find themselves affected by this, and here is where United can look to capitalise – not to mention the fact that this is City’s first go at Europe’s premier competition and Chelsea’s desire for their Holy Grail remaining strong as ever may well divert focus from the title challenge.
Ferguson and United fans are aware that titles are won and lost over the heavy fixture periods over both the winter months and Easter – both being a stumbling block for Chelsea last season. Moreover the clashes between the ‘top four’ will take on as much emphasis as ever, with the top six now fighting to even get a place in the top four, let alone winning the title.
With such a high calibre of teams, it is feasible that many a game will be lost and the topsy turvy nature of last season may well be replicated, with unexpected defeats and shock candidates for European places. Whilst this could more than likely be true, it does not change the fact that domestically at least, United will be most people’s pick for being top of the pile come the end of May yet again.