Okay, so not exactly “breaking news”, but it should be since the Premier League Title essentially already belongs to Manchester United – and it’s only February.
This past weekend’s results proved favorable for the Red Devils. On Saturday, everyone watched as lowly Premier League newcomers Southampton shockingly beat a sloppy Manchester City squad 3-1 for the upset of the week. United took their 9 point lead into their Sunday match against a resurgent Everton squad. With goals from Giggs and RVP (of course), United never looked like they were a team in trouble of dropping points.
So now, with only 12 matches remaining in the Premier League season and a possible 36 points up for grabs, United stand 12 points clear of 2nd place City. You have to go all the way back to the 2005/2006 season to find a team with at least a 12 point lead with 12 matches remaining. Chelsea had a 17 and 18 point lead over Liverpool and United respectively. Chelsea ended up winning the title over a 2nd place United by 8 points.
The Red Devils have arguably three tough tests left on the schedule: Home vs. City and Chelsea and Away vs. Arsenal. In my opinion, if they can salvage only three points from all three of those matches combined, they will still win the title with ease. Manchester City has a tougher road ahead: Home vs. Chelsea and Newcastle and Away vs. Everton, Tottenham, and United (who they lost to 3-2 at home already). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see it’s difficult to envision scenarios where City can gain points on United.
The most glaring difference between the two clubs’ schedules is Champions League action. United must face off against their European rivals Real Madrid in the upcoming weeks while City can relax at home and focus solely on the upcoming F.A. Cup and Premier League fixtures. With the 12 point lead, United may be tempted to take their foot off the gas in the Premier League to focus on winning the Champions League. I do not think they will at this point in the season, but it is worth noting. To me, that is United’s only chance of not being crowned Champions of English Football. But, like I said, they’ve already won the title so what’s the point of speculating?
With the title in United’s hands, the real story the rest of the season will be for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots to ensure Champions League action for the following season. There’s a 5 team battle for these last 3 spots. For a prediction on how these positions will look at the end of the season, read my post “Predicting the Top of the Premier League Table”.