Alan Curbishley was put under scrutiny this week when he claimed it would be a travesty if United didn’t win the league. Whilst I don’t entirely agree he deserved the criticism Avram Grant threw in his direction for what he said, I can agree that the timing of the comments, in the week leading up to his side playing United, was poor. However, Curbishley is spot on in what he says.
I am not saying Chelsea don’t deserve to be in the position they are, because that is the brilliant thing about leagues, you have to be consistently good enough. Whilst their football has been largely uninspiring and dull, they have been picking up the points on a weekly basis, and credit to them for that. Before the extra game we played yesterday, they had picked up exactly the same points as us.
However, when we look at the quality of football between United and Chelsea, we can see there is a vast difference, and that is supported by the fantastic goal difference we have over them, which could see us win the league next weekend.
Yesterday’s 4-1 drubbing of West Ham was the 6th time we’ve won a game in the league scoring 4 goals, whilst there have been a further two occasions where we’ve scored more than 4 goals a game in the league. On top of that, we have the 4-0 vs Arsenal in the FA Cup, and the two games in the Champions League where we’ve scored 4 goals.
In the 53 games United have played in the league, FA Cup and European Cup, we have averaged just over two goals a game, scoring 107 in total this season. In the league, we have scored 78 goals in 37 games, again, averaging more than two goals a game. In contrast, Chelsea have scored 62 goals in 36 games, 16 less than United.
Defensively, we have again been superior to our rivals, conceding 22 goals in 37 games, in comparison to Chelsea’s 25 goals in 36 games. In total, our goal difference is 19 better than the blues’.
It certainly begs the question, how on earth are Chelsea even in the running for taking our title off us this season?
United have lost 2 more games than Chelsea this season, with both sides having lost to each other away from home this season. We lost at City, despite dominating possession and shots on goal. We lost at Bolton on a day where one defensive error, made by Gerard Pique filling in for injuries at the back, cost us the three points. We lost 2-1 at West Ham, after Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty that would have taken us 2-0 clear. Then there was the derby day defeat at home on the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, where the whole occasion seemed to overawe our players. Then most recently, we lost at Stamford Bridge, after an 86th minute penalty was awarded.
Fortunately for United, we have won two more games than Chelsea, whilst they have dropped their points in drawing three more games than we have. However, it is certainly a case of United throwing points away than it is Chelsea convincingly winning them, particularly over recent months, which has left us chasing the title up until the last day of the season.
After victory over West Ham, Owen Hargreaves claimed that it would be a positive thing for the game to see a team who strives to play attacking, exciting football claim the league title. “It would be nice if teams like United who play attacking football and score lots of goals got their reward,” said Hargreaves. “It is very rare at this level to see a team at the top of the table with such a massive goal difference. We are in control of our own destiny, which is what you want, and we need only one win to retain our title. Now we will see how Chelsea get on.”
If we don’t win the league this season, it’s because we don’t deserve to win it, but it would be a struggle to see John Terry get his hands on the trophy again. In the Premiership years, Chelsea would certainly be the worst performing Champions if they were to win it. United once scored just 67 goals in a season where they were crowned Champions, back in the first Premiership season, when Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and QPR all finished in the top 7. Football has come on a long way since then, although the lowest goal tally since then was the 68 goals of Arsenal in 1998. Still, that is some 6 goals better than Chelsea.
Aside from the statistics and instead just focussing on the football, Chelsea are just pretty boring. The exciting football Roman Abramovich was determined on seeking out just never came, with Avram Grant showing no signs of being able to provide it. The more honest Chelsea fans would be able to admit as much after watching their side play out and cling on to another boring 1-0.
Chelsea are efficient and their players are capable of grinding out a result. Between the first game of the year and last weekend’s win against United, Chelsea have won by just 1 goal in 8 of their 12 victories. This doesn’t make them undeserving of their points, but does it make them undeserving of the title? They have shown they are capable of playing good and entertaining football, if the first half against United is anything to go by, but does the fact they can’t sustain these performances mean they would be less worthy league winners? Should the Champions’ job be to entertain and win, or simply just to win?
However, after our recent focus on Chelsea and their performances, next weekend we shouldn’t have to be worrying about what they’re doing against Bolton. Whether they are playing great or boring football, whether they score 5 or no goals shouldn’t make an ounce of difference to us. All that matters from this point on is how we’re playing, and a performance against Wigan like the one against West Ham yesterday should secure us the title, rightly awarding the best team in England this season.