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Flawed and fabulous, Manchester United gives up three goals in Boxing Day win

Dec 26, 2012, 12:33 PM EDT

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

The defending remained terrible, which made the outcome foreseeably dramatic. In hindsight, it was foolish to dismiss any Manchester United game (including today’s) as being predictable. With the firepower to overcome any foolishness at the back, the Premier League’s leaders will forever have to out-shoot their opponents, something that’s lead them to the top of an entertaining if highly flawed Premier League.

Today was no different. David de Gea deserved an assist on Newcastle’s opener, his poor block pushing a long range shot right into the path of James Perch (the only onrushing attacker). A 29th minute Jonny Evans’ own goal restored the Magpies’ lead shortly after the Red Devils’ defender had equalized. After new goal scoring machine Patrice Evra (up to four goals on the season) pulled United back, Papiss Demba Cisse put Newcastle in front with 22 minutes left.

But then Manchester United did Manchester United things. Robin van Persie hit his league-leading 13th goal three minutes later, bringing the Red Devils back for the third time. Then as regulation time ended, Javier Hernández beat Tim Krul low to deliver full points, giving United a seven-point lead and one more point than they had at the same juncture last year.

If any 4-3 result was predictable, this was it.

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There’s no more entertaining team in the world right now than Manchester United, adulation which serves as a double edged sword. If they don’t have the best set of attackers in the world, they certainly have the most clinical, the team posting an amazing conversion rate throughout their campaign. But their defense is nowhere near good enough to sustain their style of play, particularly on days when Michael Carrick is asked to carry Paul Scholes in midfield.

Not good enough to hold leads, Manchester United provides opponents no reason to revere them the way Barcelona and Bayern Munich are esteemed. If you go after them, you will score on the Red Devils. Your best chance to win is to hope they’ll sit on a lead (as they did against Manchester City) or fail to convert the chances they create (as they did against Everton and Norwich).

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They’re the perfect leaders of a league that has proved enticing if extremely flawed. As the league’s performances in Champions League showed, there are no great teams in England, but there are a number (like Liverpool, Fulham, Southampton, and even Chelsea) whose entertainment value transcends their results.

Were those clubs (or Manchester United) in Spain or Germany, they would sit lower in the standings. But England doesn’t have to be the highest quality competition every year. Let leagues ebb and flow, especially if they’re going to offset their drops with fun factor that augments the best talent in the world.

And no doubt, today’s game at Old Trafford wasn’t the highest quality soccer. But it was fun. It was exactly why the Premier League is the most popular league in the world, if not necessarily the best.