Seven points clear. A game in hand. Is it really going to be this easy?
In hindsight, the title win in 2006-2007 was fairly easy, given that we lead the table from the very start of the weekend and were crowned Champions with three games to play and eight points separating us and Chelsea. However, at the time, we were insecure and the cockiness of years gone by had dwindled.
We sang to Mourinho, claiming we would be returning the Premiership trophy to Manchester in May, however it was only as we got to the final months we sang it with real confidence. Even then, I was still nervous we’d throw it away. The football of the 2004-2005 season had been woeful and whilst we weren’t as bad as the press made out, there were doubts over how long it would be until we were lifting the trophy again.
It all seemed too good to be true back in 2007, too easy, so I was waiting for us to fall flat on our faces. Fortunately, it didn’t.
Confidence grew last season, although wasn’t quite at the peaks we’d seen in the late 1990s/early 2000s. I was pretty sure we were going to win the league, but as Chelsea started making ground on us, particularly after our 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, the doubts start to come in again. We’ve been better than them all season, but what if they nick the league on the last day of the season and the Champions League title in Moscow?
You could see that whilst our players were fairly confident, it was only when Giggsy’s goal against Wigan went in that they really celebrate the title. We’d left it until the last possible minute to confirm that we were going to be Champions again. And from what I recall, the European Cup final was rather, tense.
Regardless, we went on to do it, meaning this season we started off more confident than we had in years. The results and performances didn’t match our confidence though. Whilst I kept banging on about us having much tougher fixtures than our rivals, we’d been waiting for us to reach top gear and really blow our opponents away, to give us the belief that really was going to be our year again, the third time in a row for the second time a decade.
Sadly, the great performances have been few and far between, with our best game surely coming against Chelsea. However, in matches where you’d imagine us to steam-roll our opponents, it hasn’t really happened. Maybe it’s because the same XI players rarely get a game together, maybe it’s because we’re still adjusting to the addition of Dimitar Berbatov, maybe it’s because the likes of Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney have missed months of the season. Who knows and quite frankly, who cares?
Whilst I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch (I’m much more boastful of our title chances in the summer than I am with just a few months to go. It’s no good tempting fate!) it’s hard to see us chucking it away now. We can still afford to lose a couple of games, including our home match against the dippers (heaven forbid!) and we’d still be crowned Champions.
Whilst you can’t knock United, winning our last 11 Premiership games on the trot, it’s undeniable that we haven’t been playing that well. It says a lot about our mentality, the mentality of Champions, as much as it does our competition, who clearly aren’t up to it, to be so far behind us when we’re not even close to hitting top gear.
Will this be the easiest title we’ve won in years? Ever?