English Premiership

Red Devils could hit 100 mark

2013-03-27 17:03
Alex Ferguson (AFP)
Cape Town - Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s legendary, long-serving manager, was quoted this week as saying he would be “absolutely delighted” if his charges could reach 95 points for the Premiership season.

The runaway leaders on 74 points from 29 matches (arch-rivals and defending champions Manchester City are a distant second, 15 adrift) would thus emulate Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team of 2004/05 - their tally of 95 on that occasion set a record, still standing, for most points accumulated since the Premiership was launched in 1992.

Like most other teams, United have nine games left, meaning that a further 27 possible points are at stake for them.

So it does beg the cheeky, tempting question: never mind Fergie’s stated glee over 95, what price a first-time Premiership 100 points?

For that to happen, the Red Devils would need to win every single remaining fixture, as even one draw among the nine games would leave them pursuing a maximum of 25 points, thus potentially “stranding” them on a tantalising 99 at season’s end on Sunday, May 19 when all clubs play simultaneously.

A sensational, nine-wins finish to the campaign, however, would catapult them to an unprecedented 101 points.

Some would no doubt write that off as near-impossible ... but it is a valid question to ask when you consider that in their last nine matches, the Old Trafford-based side have accumulated eight wins and a lone “blip” when they were held 1-1 away to decent Tottenham Hotspur.

Keep in mind that even then, it required an injury-time party-killer strike from Clint Dempsey for United to be deprived of all three points after Robin van Persie had put the visitors ahead in the January snow.

So Ferguson’s side going a fraction better by winning their last nine encounters cannot simply be dismissed as the stuff of fantasy, can it?

Still, some tempering factors have to be chewed on.

Just one is that if - as is likely - United wrap up the title a few weeks before the scheduled end to 2012/13, at least some element of involuntary complacency may creep in for whatever lingering obligations they then have on the final straight of another gruelling slog (they still have an interest in the FA Cup, as things stand).

But another dampener to the prospect is the almost undeniable fact that the Red Devils’ last nine games are considerably more taxing on paper than the previous nine where they so nearly banked a 100 percent record and generally made short shrift of such ailing outfits as Reading, QPR, Southampton and Wigan along the way.

Coming opponents include neighbours City - which will be their next assignment on Monday April 8 after they have completed their date with innocuous Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this Saturday - although the consolation is that the derby will be a home tussle.

They will also have to negotiate leading London outfits Arsenal (away) and Chelsea (home) in successive weeks, and of the nine remaining games, five are on enemy terrain.

So yes, winning every clash is a long shot.

First objective anyway is simply to win the league: it is not yet a done deal and United will be mindful of the fact that, last season, they earned a rosy haul of 89 points and even that wasn’t enough to deny City the honours on better goal difference - admittedly Roberto Mancini’s side have been rather more lame this season.

For the statistically curious, it is also worth pointing out that when United clinched the 1996/97 Premiership, they did so with only 75 points - just one more than they presently boast.

Fifteen points clear of anyone else currently, the Red Devils will also be aware that they have a good shout, whether they eventually hit the 95-100 landmark or not, at bettering their own previous record for widest margin of title triumph.

That was in 1999/00, when their 91 points easily bettered runners-up Arsenal’s 73 for a gaping difference of 18.

United’s remaining Premiership fixtures:

Sunderland (a), Manchester City (h), Stoke (a), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Arsenal (a), Chelsea (h), Swansea (h), West Brom (a).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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