Having seen Manchester United and their neighbours Mancehster City recently overtake Chelsea in the current Premier League table, it is evident to all Premier League fans that the title race will come down to these three. Manchester United have been up there since the beginning of the Premier League. Chelsea, backed by Russian billionare Roman Abramovich have been a dominant force since he took over the club in 2003. While Manchester City's meteoric rise from the ashes of the old Third Division to current Premier League Champions is spectacular – although funded by the oil refinery in Abu Dhabi.
Now, as I write this article Manchester United sit on top of the Barclays Premier League. Usually, when Manchester United go top, they stay top. However, one can not ignore their catastrophic ending to last season. Sitting 8 points clear of Manchester City whilst trailing the Citizens for the majority of last season, the 19 time champions of England blew it. A signal of intent from a club once dubbed as the 'noisy neighbours' of Manchester United. Truth is, at one point where the Barlcays Premier League was so predictable with only really one team in the run in, there is now a minimum of three.
Since the introduction of the Premier League, only five teams have won the title. United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Blackburn and Manchester City. Blackburn, currently backed by 'Venky's' do not look like winning Englands second tier let alone fight for the top. Arsenal, who have gone 7 years without a trophy do not look like contending this season, again. Which leaves us down to just three. We're currently 11 games into the season and just three points seperates Chelsea, 3rd, and Manchester United, 1st.
Manchester United have started the season in scintillating form. Having won 9 of 11 games this season and one goal shy of 30 league goals, Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt be happy with where his side lie, after last season. Having lost the league title on goal difference to City, United went and signed the Premier Leagues top scorer Robin van Persie for £24million. Much was made of the transfer fee for a 29 year old blighted with injury. However, with 11 goals in all competitions this season already, the Dutchman looks to be a great bit of business for Sir Alex. With 15 different goal scorers already this season, Ferguson has targeted 100 league goals from his side. With 20 from van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez. United are also the only team to have qualified for the UEFA Champions League knock out rounds, winning all four of their opening games.
Although, as United prepare for a trip to Carrow Road to face Norwich, it is reported that Robin van Persie is injured for the game. The Dutchman carried Arsenal last season to a top four finish and people are already questioning United's reliance on him. With their number 20 injured, would United struggle to find goals? They do have Javier Hernandez who has recently come back to life. The Mexican has 7 goals in his last 5 games for United, who are beginning to see similar form that Hernandez showed in his first season at United – which brought 20 goals to his name.
Manchester United always kick on in the second half of the season. If Ferguson and his men can remain top of the league come March/April, no doubt his side with the experienced heads like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will remain there. Ferguson himself will ensure nothing happens like last season.
The current reigning champions, Manchester City are just not the same side they were last season. Last season saw City win 9 and draw 1 of their first opening 10 league games. With a 5-1 win away at Tottenham Hotspur and a 6-1 drumming of Manchester United. They had scored double the amount of goals this time last season than they have now, as well as conceding one less. Roberto Mancini is trying to employ a different formation at the Etihad and so far, it is failing to deliver. However, stats don’t lie and currently - domestically at least, Manchester City are unbeaten. With last minute comebacks similar to those of the comeback kings Manchester United, City are beginning to look a side who can retain their championship.
Having been knocked out of the League Cup and their Champions League campaign almost as un-impressive as last season. The Champions will now have their sight's set on one target this season, retaining the championship.
Although worried about the consequences of FFP, Mancini has all the money in the world to spend on whatever player he wants. Radamel Falcao has been linked with Man City recently – dubbed the 'number one striker' in the world right now. Falcao could be the player City need to sort out their inconsistencies this season. United and Chelsea upgraded their respected sides with the likes of van Persie, Oscar and Hazard. City may need to freshen things up in the camp to get their campaign running.
Chelsea recruited the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin in the summer as Abramovich tried to re-vitalize his side. The early signs looked promising as Chelsea made a blistering start to the Barclays Premier League. However – since losing to Manchester United in their first league defeat of the season, Chelsea have been struggling domestically.
A lack of squad rotation may be the reason. With the likes of Hazard, Mata and Torres playing the majority of games for Chelsea. While the ban and injury of John Terry does not make anything easier for Roberto Di Matteo, the fact that Fernando Torres is still struggling to score could truly jeopardize Chelsea's title charge.
Last season Chelsea won the trophy their owner has been desperate to get his hands on since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the Champions League. Many people argue that Chelsea did not win the trophy in the usual attacking style of play we have all love to see. Chelsea 'parked the bus' against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and won the trophy in a style which failed to flatter the competition.
Roberto Di Matteo has a two year contract in which Abramovich will demand success. If he fails to win the League or Champions League after a summer spending spree, expect the London club to be looking for a new manager come May.
Manchester United are finally beginning to look like the Manchester United of old. With quick, free-flowing and attacking football. United's attack are scoring goals for fun. There defence looks weak and their goalkeeper problem is still an issue. However, there is no reason why Sir Alex Ferguson can not lead his side to a record 20th league title.
Manchester City can look at this season from two different perspectives. They may have crashed out the league cup and look increasingly likely to crash out of Europe too. However, with two less competitions for Mancini and City to worry about – this could potentially steer them into the right direction and get their domestic campaign on track.
Chelsea arguably have the strongest starting XI out of all three teams. If Di Matteo is able to keep his squad fit, or use the rotation policy wisely then he can lead the Blues to their fifth league title. If Chelsea can get Fernando Torres scoring off the creative trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata then Chelsea will boast arguably the greatest attacking quartet in Europe.
Leave us a comment below who you think will win The Barclays Premier League this season