The 1997-98 Premier League season brought some significant changes in English Football. It was the year that Arsene Wenger led Arsenal ended Manchester United’s stranglehold on the Premier League trophy. Having led the table through February by a whopping 11 point gap, United surprisingly gave up the lead eventually losing the title by a single point. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side responded by winning an unprecedented unique treble of League, FA Cup and Champions League. The following autumn, they completed the set by winning the World “Super Cup”. Manchester United’s achievements in 1998/99 would be hard to match, especially this season with the depth of competition in the Premier and Champions Leagues. There are already strong similarities, however, and those supporters who remember the sheer elation of the triumph over Bayern or of Ryan Giggs' stunning FA Cup goal would love a dose of deja-vu. After all, the manager is still here, and so are some of the players, so it is certainly in United's DNA to do it again.
1998/99 was the Treble year; a feat that many believe will never be repeated. Or will it?
In this brief review, we look at major talking points which considers the possibility of history repeating itself.1)
Comparisons Between Strike Force
Sir Alex’s squad during that famous campaign was far from perfect, as is patently the case with his current set up – or in fact any team in History. But, in the form of Teddy Sheringham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, the Scot had the potency to mask any minor flaws. Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez provide the modern equivalent to that attacking quadrumvirate, and they are just as deadly in front of goal as their predecessors.
If they are let down in any area of the pitch on a particular day, an ominously potent attack can bail them out with a flurry of goals. Sir Alex knows that and he isn’t the only one to compare the two strike forces. In 1998/99 it was Yorke, Cole, Sheringham and Solskjaer. Between them they got 76 goals, with 49 in the league. So far, with just over half the season gone, the current four strikers have 43 goals in total, with 34 in the league. So God help the rest of Europe if Welbeck gets his touch back.2)
Stats, Stats and Stats
Writing in his programme notes on the eve of Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over West Brom just over three weeks ago, Sir Alex Ferguson described his current squad as “a group as good as any I have had in my time at Old Trafford" (via manutd.com)
By Beating Liverpool on Sunday and moving on to 55 points at the top of the Premier League table, United eclipsed the highest points haul that they have recorded in the opening 22 games of a season overtaking the previous record of 54 points secured by the same stage of the 2006-07 season. The 55 points gained – with 18 victories, one draw and three defeats – overhauls many of the impressive tallies amassed by previous great United sides. Treble winners of 1999 were incredibly 11 points worse of at this stage of the season with just 41 points. But should United continue to gather up the points at the same rate as they have done so far this season, Ferguson’s men will be on course to match the record (set by Chelsea during the 2004-05 season, when they were also on 55 points at this stage) for the most points won during the Premier League season, with a projected 95 points, a, ratio of 2.5 points per game. (Stats via Daily Mail)
While United scored 80 at more than two goals a game League in 1998/99 season, they conceded 37 in total, giving them the best goal difference in the League. This season, so far United have scored an astonishing 56 goals, but they have conceded far too many with 29.
The real truth of the matter, however, is that competition overall is much tougher now than in 1998/99. And yet United needed only 79 points to win the league; an average of 2.1 per match. This season they already have 55 points at an average of almost 2.5, and they are scoring for fun this season with everybody chipping in, as many as 16 different goal scorers.
So maybe we can start to believe that history can repeat itself?