If Manchester United match Chelsea’s result this weekend, whether that is win, lose or draw, we will win the league by goal difference alone. We currently have a difference superior by 17 goals, thanks to our great scoring and defensive records. Whilst Ronaldo has stolen most of the headlines this season, there has still been some room for praise of our defence, who have conceded fewer goals for our club this season than in any other title winning campaign. It currently stands at just 22 goals against, which is 5 goals better than last season, which was the current record for fewest goals conceded, with 27 goals. Incredibly, United have won the Premiership despite conceding 45 goals before now!
Ricardo Carvalho believes it’s an injustice that a team should win the league on goal difference, instead suggesting there be a ‘play off’ format to decide who should be crowned Champions. Somebody really ought to explain to Carvalho the point of having a league and counting goal difference. Leagues aren’t about one off matches, they’re about how you do over the course of the season. Would Carvalho too suggest that Barnsley take Chelsea’s place in the top division after beating them in a one off game this season? Would Carvalho have been offering up this little suggestion if his side were about to win the league on goal difference?
Sheffield United were relegated on goal difference last season, as were Bolton in 1998, City in 1996, and Palace in 1993, to name a few. Should they too have been offered a chance to play the team ahead of them in the table for a chance to stay in the Premiership? Of course not. It would defeat the whole purpose of the league if teams that were either weaker defensively or offensively, or both, in the case of Chelsea in relation to United this season, were still allowed to claim the prize.
However, whether winning the title on goal difference instead of points takes away from the occasion is a valid question, and one which Sir Alex Ferguson addressed in a press conference today.
When asked whether this league title would mean less than the previous nine, Fergie responded, “are you serious? To have a good goal difference gives you an edge on everyone. It is a point I have made for quite a few seasons. You win the league because you are the best team. It doesn’t matter how.”
Do you agree with Ferguson?