Manchester United the big winners on a night when they didn't even play

05 January 2011 11:44
Another night of frenetic and unpredictable activity across the landscape of the Barclays Premier League. Another good night for Manchester United.

So inadequate are United's challengers this season that Sir Alex Ferguson's team move forwards even when they don't play.

On Wednesday night, the results rolled in for Ferguson like New Year's greetings at midnight. Just a point each for Manchester City and Arsenal. Nothing for Chelsea. Sunday's FA Cup opponents Liverpool got clobbered.

Try as they might: There was plenty of huff and puff from Manchester City's and Arsenal. but that doesn't win you titles

For all the failings of Ferguson's current team, a record-breaking 19th league title beckons.

United lead neighbours City by just two points, but they have two games in hand. The gap between them and Arsenal is four with a game to spare. As for Chelsea, their race looks run already.

In order for United to be denied now, something spectacular needs to happen. History tells us that it must. Quite simply, if City or Arsenal are to deny United they must buck a trend that has remained constant in the Premier League for the last 10 years.

In doing so, they must repeat one of the most remarkable results sequences the modern English game has ever seen.

After 20 games of this season, Arsenal had 39 points and City had 38. Only once since the year 2000 has this been enough to propel a team to glory in May.

Thumbs up: Despite failing to hit top gear, Manchester United are firmly in pole position in the race to the Premier League title

Back in 2001-02, Arsenal had exactly 39 points at the 20-game stage and went on to win the league with 87 points. It was some second half of the season. Arsene Wenger's team took 48 points from the final 54 available. It was a remarkable effort and very much the exception to the modern day rule.

Last season, for example, Chelsea had 45 points after 20 matches. In January 2008, Arsenal had 47 points. In 2005-06 Chelsea had already amassed 55.

Let us remind ourselves. After 20 games this season, Arsenal had 39 points and City 38. So the size of the challenge is clear and, after last night, it is that bit greater.

Against a tepid and unambitious City side, Arsenal had the chance to underline their credentials as genuine challengers. That they failed to take it when they dominated means their sense of loss will be greatest this morning.

Close, but not close enough: Arsenal eeked out chances against City but again lacked the cutting edge

City were jeered from the field by the locals. Arsenal supporters sang 'Boring, Boring City'. Nevertheless, once again Arsenal should turn some of their ire in on themselves. Once again opportunity knocked at the Emirates and once again Wenger's players allowed the door to close in their faces.

Past glories: Arsenal's incredible second half of the 2001/02 season will need to be repeated this season

A look at Arsenal's home record tells its own story this season. Points surrendered in North London to West Brom, Newcastle, Tottenham and now City would be enough to put Arsenal well clear of United. Wenger's team persistently play the best football but fail to get the best results. At times it is painful to watch.

They do their best here, that's for sure. They do their best to puff out their chests and call the battle on. Somehow, though, it just doesn't work. Arsenal came at City like a blizzard at times. They should have scored in the first minute. They struck the frame of the goal three times in the first half. Goalkeeper Joe Hart was City's best player.

But Arsenal didn't score. Chances came and went and by the end Wengerwore that familiar look. The one that says he wants to be angry atsomeone else, that he wants to find a scapegoat.  But, deep down, heknows the blame lies within. Within himself and within his dressingroom.

Arsenal still have a chance, certainly a greater chance than City. The fixture list offers them some hope, for a start. United must go to Liverpool, Chelsea and to the Emirates. Arsenal's toughest remaining games are away to Tottenham and at home to the current leaders. It is not a programme to frighten Wenger and his players.

Can they win the Premier League, though? Can they come over all Usain Bolt and finish like they did in 2002? At the moment, it seems unlikely. 

 PREMIER LEAGUE LIVE: Wednesday night's action as it happenedArsenal 0 Manchester City 0: Hart the hero as visitors shut up shop for drawYou play too much football! Now FIFA chief Blatter aims fire at Premier LeagueLet's become Invincibles II! Nani urges United to now go unbeaten all season


Source: Daily_Mail