With United trailing behind Chelsea and Liverpool this season, I have often stressed the point that we have played much more difficult fixtures this season. This is not a whiny excuse, rather a pretty reasonable explanation. Our performances haven’t been anything special, but then, neither have Chelsea’s or Liverpool’s. However, we have now played the eight teams that finished below us in the league last season away from home.

When you look at the fixtures a bit more logically, you can see our position in relation to Chelsea is pretty decent.

This season’s results against the eight teams that finished below us last season looks like this:
Portsmouth: 1-0 win
Liverpool: 2-1 loss.
Chelsea: 1-1 draw
Blackburn: 2-0 win.
Everton: 1-1 draw.
Arsenal: 2-1 loss.
Aston Villa: 0-0 draw
City: 1-0 win

That’s 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses, giving us 12 points of a possible 24. Last season we also picked up 12 of the possible 24:
Portsmouth: 1-1 draw
Liverpool: 1-0 win
Chelsea: 2-1 loss.
Blackburn: 1-1 draw.
Everton: 1-0 win.
Arsenal: 2-2 draw.
Aston Villa: 4-1 win.
City: 1-0 loss.

If we were to compare this to our main title rivals, Chelsea, it is is more difficult to do. Last season they continued their brilliant unbeaten record at home, but only won 12 games out of 19 (in contrast to the 17 United won at home). This season, their home form is not at all desirable, yet they are doing the business away from home.

Instead, I will compare like for like, their results this season compared to last, showing first their result this season, then their result last. (There obviously will be some fixtures missing, allowing for the teams that have been promoted/relegated since last season).

Portsmouth (home) won WON
Wigan (away) won WON
Tottenham (home) draw WON – worse
City (away) won WON
United (home) draw WON – worse
Villa (home) won DRAW – better
Boro away won WON
Liverpool (home) lost DRAW – worse
Sunderland (home) won WON
Blackburn (away) won WON
Newcastle (home) draw WON – worse
Arsenal (home) lost WON – worse
Bolton (away) won WON
West Ham (home) draw WON – worse

When comparing their results this season against those same games last season, Chelsea are 10 points worse off. They collected 38 points from these fixtures last season, yet just 28 from the same games this season. On just one occasion they’ve bettered their result from last season and on five occasions they have done worse.

Newcastle (home) draw WON – worse
Portsmouth (away) won DRAW – better
Liverpool (away) lost WON – worse
Chelsea (away) draw LOSS – better
Bolton (home) won WON
Blackburn (away) won DRAW – better
Everton (away) draw WON – worse
West Ham (home) won WON
Arsenal (away) lost DRAW – worse
Villa (away) draw WON – worse
City (away) won LOST – better
Sunderland (home) won WON
Spurs (away) draw DRAW

Last season United picked up 25 points from the games we have played so far this season, meaning this year we are worse off by 2 points. We have bettered last season’s result on four occasions and have done worse on five occasions.

When you then consider Chelsea have still yet to go to Old Trafford, Anfield, the Emirates or Villa Park and are already 10 points worse off from like to like fixtures, our position in the league suddenly looks a lot more favourable.

In Chelsea’s past seven games in all competitions, they have won two (Sunderland and Cluj), drawn two (West Ham and Newcastle) and lost three (Liverpool, Arsenal and Burnley).

Consistency is a problem for both sides so far this season, however, despite our position in the table, we are in the strongest position given the games we’ve yet to play and those we’ve got out of the way already. It’s a mixed bag for United, improving on some of last year’s results, whilst doing worse in others. For Chelsea though, they are worse off, in terms of results, in plenty of games in comparison to last season. Sir Alex Ferguson asked how much they could improve, and the answer appears to be ‘not a lot’!

Three in a row!