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Well That’s More Like It… Our Fixtures Compared to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool

There we have it, United’s first good performance of the season matched with the goals it deserves. United beat Aalborg 3-0 away from home, converting three of the eight chances on goal, which certainly beats the one goal from open play in sixteen shots on target against Bolton. This is more like it.

Of course, our opposition weren’t World beaters and they made a blunder for the second goal, but in recent matches, we’ve failed to capitalise on our opponents mistakes. It was a much more well rounded performance from United, which will only aid our confidence. Berbatov is off the mark and Rooney has scored in our last two matches.

Just like at the start of last season, we’re getting better with every game, growing in confidence and fitness. This time last season, we’d drawn two, won two, and lost one. This season, we’ve drawn two, won two, and lost one. But there’s a massive difference.

Whilst our points would suggest we’ve had the same start as last season, the quality of our opposition tells a different story.

Last season we’d played against the eventual 8th, 9th, 11th, 15th and 18th placed teams. This season, we’ve played against last season’s 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 13th placed teams. Last season we’d scored 3 goals in 5 games, this season we’ve scored 6 goals in 5 games.

Whilst it’s good to reflect on our improvement, it’s also worthwhile to see what our fixtures look like in comparison to our title rivals.

Liverpool

Sunderland – 15th – Away
Middlesbrough – 13th – Home
Aston Villa – 6th – Away
United – 1st – Home
Stoke – Championship – Home
Everton – 5th – Away
Average opposition league placing: 8th + 1 newly promoted team
Top 4 opposition: 1 (Home)
Home vs Away: 3 vs 3

Chelsea

Portsmouth – 8th – Home
Wigan – 14th – Away
Spurs – 11th – Home
City – 9th – Away
United – 1st – Home
Stoke – Championship – Away
Average opposition league placing: 8th/9th + 1 newly promoted team
Top 4 opposition: 1 (Home)
Home vs Away: 3 vs 3

Arsenal

West Brom – Championship – Home
Fulham – 17th – Away
Newcastle – 12th – Home
Blackburn – 7th – Away
Bolton – 16th – Away
Hull – Championship – Home
Average opposition league placing: 13th + 2 newly promoted teams
Top 4 opposition: 0
Home vs Away: 3 vs 3

In contrast, our average opposition league placing is 6/7th, we’ve faced no newly promoted teams, we’ve faced two of the top 4 teams, both away, and by the time we’ve played 6 matches, it will be 4 away days vs 2 games at home.

Assuming we win our game in hand (which we can’t do with total guarantee, but work with me here), we’ll be 6th in the league, 1 point behind Arsenal and 2 points behind both Liverpool and Chelsea. Yet we’ve had far tougher matches than all three of them.

By November 8th, we will have played all of the other top 4 teams away. In the same time, Chelsea will have played two of the top 4, both at home. Liverpool will have played two of the top 4, one at home, one away. Arsenal will have played one of the top 4 teams, at home.

Is this a complaint, unhappy with the fixtures United had been dealt? Certainly not. As long as we can keep in sight of our other title rivals, then from November onwards a large chunk of the pressure is off. We will have played all of our toughest games of the season with six months still left to go in the season, knowing that all our title rivals have to come to our place, a ground where all three of them lost season.

You might come across many giddy Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool fans over the next few months, rubbing the league table in our face, but come January or February time it could and should be a very different story. It’s not as if United aren’t accustomed to coming back to win the title from behind. Sir Alex Ferguson is more experienced than any manager in this league and even last season, we didn’t top the table until March 15th, with just 9 games left to play.

For the past couple of seasons when I’ve written about my confidence in United winning the league (which isn’t unique, as I think there’s probably only been one or two seasons since 1992 where I haven’t been confident of us winning the league at the start of the season!), we’ve had plenty of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool fans telling us to pipe down, that this is their year. Whether they cite past head to heads as the reason, or their top player, or the points they’re on at the moment, it all matters little to me, this season more than ever.

This is the best squad we’ve seen at United, so whilst the European and FA Cups are a lovely bonus, they can’t be predicted or relied upon. But I fancy us to win the league this season more than ever before. Come December, we may very well be 6 or 9 points behind, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the ‘United in decline’ stories wielded their poisonous head again, but the advantage is with us and we need to remember this.

We have a manager who has been there and done it more than anyone else in the game, often coming back from behind other teams, and I have no reason to believe this season will be any different.


About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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17 Comments

  1. brdgunner says:

    You write this like it is a disadvantage, however, you get to play the top 3 at home when the games get really hairy. Plus, the shit teams later in the season. This is an advantage to you.

  2. bmac says:

    Interesting thoughts on the game schedule.

    I thought UTD were poor last night.
    Nani was a disaster – how many times did he give the ball away or go for goal when a better option was to set up?
    Nani (and to a lesser extent Ronaldo) didn’t back track to help the defenders – the two occasions that he ball watched – set up the 2 best attacks for the AAlborg. VDS bottled a simple catch to go for a punch… I think he’s bottling a few decisions so far this term and he caused the 3 points against the scousers.
    Berbatov – the ball was presented to him on a plate….

    The point here is, for a completely poor opposition, we should have bossed the game and made it an exhibition match.

    The plus side was Ronny’s returning to form and the Rafael’s showing.

  3. red devil says:

    u call facing blackburn , mancity , spurs , arsenal(after battle of britain at parkhead) away from home after midweek exertions …..kudos to you gunner…..what if we are atleast 15 points behind the leaders by january……it really doesnt reflect our quality …….people will start writing us off…….
    however sarcastic u may be brdgunner ……we will win the championship and i am confident of it……my team has character and it will be shining throughout the season…..man utd don’t go down without a fight….weve played 3 away games*(2 top 4 sides) at the season start ….still we are only 6 points off chelsea with an extra against fulham…..and i’ll take it for a start…..the world is against us(styles is an alien)….lets rally around and stick a rod in chelskis ass

  4. red devil says:

    u call facing blackburn , mancity , spurs , arsenal(after battle of britain at parkhead) away from home after midweek exertions an advantage …..kudos to you gunner…..what if we are atleast 15 points behind the leaders by january……it really doesnt reflect our quality …….people will start writing us off…….
    however sarcastic u may be brdgunner ……we will win the championship and i am confident of it……my team has character and it will be shining throughout the season…..man utd don’t go down without a fight….weve played 3 away games*(2 top 4 sides) at the season start ….still we are only 6 points off chelsea with an extra against fulham…..and i’ll take it for a start…..the world is against us(styles is an alien)….lets rally around and stick a rod in chelskis ass

  5. james f says:

    “Assuming we win our game in hand (which we can’t do with total guarantee, but work with me here), we’ll be 6th in the league, 1 point behind Arsenal and 2 points behind both Liverpool and Chelsea.” Sorry for being a nerd, but we will be 3 points behind Liverpool and Chelsea, not 2.
    Anyway, it doesn’t matter because, come May, we will be above them all, as usual. ;-)

  6. Scott the Red says:

    Brdgunner – surely the part where I said “Is this a complaint, unhappy with the fixtures United had been dealt? Certainly not” gave away my feelings on our fixtures? No?

    I’m simply pointing out for the first few months we may look worse for wear in the table, but once the fixtures even out and the other top 4 teams have fixtures as difficult as ours, we’ll see a different table.

    Bmac – you say United didn’t play well, but then only mention Nani. So was it Nani not playing well or United?

  7. BobGunner says:

    Utd lost to Bolton and twice to Man City last season.
    I wouldn’t call any fixture ‘easy’.
    Though I can’t see you losing to Hull like we did, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t take anyone for granted.

  8. Zae says:

    Still, it would be difficult to deny that Hull City home is an easier (less difficult, if you like) fixture than Chelsea away. Even if we take nothing for granted.

  9. United-Red says:

    Had to laugh at those articles you posted. Just goes to show you any idiot can write shite for a newspaper. Should have seen the bigger picture.

  10. Pete says:

    You don’t really think this is the best squad you’ve seen at Utd, do you? The teams you’ve been forced to put out this season following a few injuries suggest otherwise.

    A goalkeeper in terminal decline, nothing much behind your first choice centre-backs, very little at right back, Scholes and Giggs struggling to keep up with the pace, Nani/Anderson flattering to deceive in their ‘difficult second season’, Hargreaves always injured, Fletcher, O’Shea, Park just not top level. You have Ronaldo of course (imagine if you didn’t!) and three excellent strikers. But even there, Rooney has hit a plateau and Berbatov is hardly the man to rely on when the going gets tough. Perhaps there are some youngsters waiting to break through, though we’ve seen precious little to back that up. A legendary manager, of course, although he seems to be prone to tactical errors post-Quieroz.

    I’m an Arsenal fan but I don’t see us being consistent enough to win the title this year. Utd don’t convince. Chelsea have to be the favourites.

  11. Stephen says:

    Pete your argument doesn’t stand up, our back up keepers are Foster and Tomaz who are extremely decent , as our Evens, Brown and O’Shea as back up defenders.
    You are speculating about Nani and Anderson because nobody knows, Fletcher has been superb this season as has Park.
    Rooney has not hit a plateau, thats just a lazy thing to say and Berbatov it top draw and we have Tevez.
    With young players we have the twins, Possebon, who have played and have been very promising to say the least.

  12. Scott the Red says:

    Pete – name me a United squad which had better players than Rooney, Scholes, Nani and Giggs ON THE BENCH, like we did last weekend… and that’s still with the injuries to Hargreaves and Carrick. It’s easily the best squad we’ve ever had.

    Rooney has hit his plateau? He is 22. You are a moron.

    Are we talking about the same goalkeeper? His decline worries you so much you’ve forgotten already he saved the penalty that won United the European Cup 4 months ago, after finishing the Premiership season with the best defensive record on the continent?

    Berbatov has scored more than 20 goals a season for the past 4 years, at clubs where he received nowhere near the service he did at United. To think he won’t score at least 20 goals this season is pretty hopeful on your part.

  13. sanj says:

    goalkeeper in terminal decline? edwin made one gaffe against liverpool and all of a sudden he is in terminal decline. rubbish. ben foster will take be the new keeper soon enough (for both united and england). behind vida and rio are wesley and evans. very little at right back? clearly you missed rafael da silva yesterday. criticizing scholes and giggs is typical of someone who doesn’t watch united- scholes still sprays his gorgeous balls all over the park and giggs is a proven winner and leader. nani is immature and selfish just like ronaldo was. look how that turned out. anderson will shine this year (just like he did last year). maybe he will even come with 10 meters of the net. i agree that hargreaves’ constant battle for fitness is quite annoying. fletcher is underrated and not our top choice in midfield, obviously but still class. as a gunner fan, you might remember fletcher’s performance when we kicked you off the park in the FA cup. park is a tireless worker who is extremely undervalued. he also scored a massive goal against chelsea and is priceless to have in defensive champions league fixtures. rooney has hit a plateau? says who? a gunners fan? if you want to talk about hitting plateaus, go talk to adebayor who crapped himself every time he had a chance at the close of last season. rooney is integral to united’s success- and i don’t see how you could say he hit a plateau after scoring 2 in 2 as well as scoring once and assisting twice for england. berbatov will score many goals this year, ESPECIALLY when the going gets tough. as far as ‘precious little’ to back that up- please see rafael da silva, fabio da silva, rodrigo possebon, manucho, danny welbeck, davide petrucci. also, don’t forget that ronaldo, rooney, tevez, nani, and anderson are all under 25. a successful team cannot be built of all top level players- there must be a balance. a balance of youth and experience, and a balance of top level and role players. this is a balance i believe united has.

  14. Drew Vader says:

    well said sanj….

  15. john ferry says:

    To all chelski, riverdrool, and assrenal fans : Worry about what your teams are doing wrong, first and foremost. Just as you criticized Manchester United in the past, so you do so now-look at where that has gotten you. Answer this question truthfully-would you trade your fixtures with our (early season fixtures) ? Enough said.

  16. OTRed says:

    ^^^^Thank You!!!! Just like this blog topic was talking about how United are doing, why don’t Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea fans worry about their own teams? We United fans will do the worrying for United and their “declining keeper”, thank you very much.

  17. corea says:

    i have one question. how many manunited fans read liverpool, arsenal or chelsie blogs ? i’m not.

    thanks for the positive, Scott. some sort of pleasing mathematics.

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