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At EPL halfway pole: can anyone catch Manchester United?

Dec 28, 2012, 2:22 PM EST

Alex Ferguson

Halfway through the English Premier League season, it’s so tempting to wonder if Manchester United’s highly flawed defense will eventually be the undoing of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men?

Consider that the league leaders have found a way to trail in 57.9 percent of their matches – a truly startling statistic that should strike everyone as very un-leader-like. Especially when you hold it up against a far weaker side like Aston Villa. Even a team that’s doing everything lately except standing aside while the opposition fires away, Villa has been on the bad side of a lead in only 52.6 percent. (Those figures come courtesy of The Guardian.)

The question for me, however, is this: does any team really have the horses to make up the ground? The lead over Man City currently stands at seven points.

I just cannot see Manchester City getting there. There just seems too much wrong with the current title holders. Not “wrong” as in “they aren’t very good.” There’s plenty of talent – but they just don’t seem as stable as a title defender needs to be. There’s too much collective ordinary about it all.

Perhaps they just need one swashbuckling result, something like the head-turner Manchester United just concocted, that thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over Newcastle. That’s the kind of win where you look at a team and say, “They’ve got the belief. They have the fight. They have that doggone ‘something extra’ that it’s going to take.”

Problem is, that’s Manchester United we are talking about, not Manchester City. One team has it; one team might … but needs to get busy showing it.

Chelsea is the side that looks more able to make up the ground, perhaps able to use the recent run as a catapult to pull close enough and to then apply some pressure to Ferguson’s men in the spring.

Rafa Benitez’s boys have won six of their last seven; the one loss was to Corinthians in the FIFA Club World Cup final. They have won their last three EPL contest by a combined 14-1.

This weekend’s biggie at Goodison Park against Everton will tell us a lot. If the Blues get through this one with a result, they’ll go flying into the New Year, sights firmly affixed to Ferguson’s back side.

At the very least, Sunday’s match in Liverpool will have something to say about which of these teams (it could be both, of course) finish among the top four.

  1. valiantdraws - Dec 28, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    C’mooooon Toffees!

  2. tylerbetts - Dec 28, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Wasn’t it a whole heck of a lot later in the season last year that United had an insurmountable lead? And, remind me again … did they win the title last season?

    United is going to have a poor run of form where they drop points they shouldn’t – a loss that should have been a draw, a couple draws that should have been wins. WIth a defense that pourous, it’s going to hapen. Someone (likely City or Chelsea) will pull close at that time.

  3. scottp11 - Dec 28, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Yea, idk. United can certainly be caught. Their defense has been downright awful overall, Vidic or not.

    City, without a doubt, has been dubious, aloof, odd and indeed “wrong”. But momentum goes one way and I think we can all imagine City going gangbusters at some point in the near future. All of a sudden finding “it” and making Mancini look like a genius :-/

    I hate to bring in a cross-sports pollination, but Dean Smith (the legendary UNC hoops coach) would abide by the thought that if you simply got the best players, put them out there; then they’d still win. They’d outscore the opponent based on sheer talent. It seems to be how United has played thus far.

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