“The Premier League is such a difficult league,” he told CNN this week. “I always look at the team that wins the league the year before, you have to have a target to try to work on.
“It’s up to the rest, including us, to do that, and Chelsea are the champions. They’ve had a good start to the season and I look upon them as the main danger to us.
“The games that will matter will probably be the ones against each other. Last year we lost both of those games and therefore that decided the title.”
In other words, Chelsea are our biggest rivals for the title. Well, you can’t argue with the man. he speaks the truth, and his logic is impeccable: if we had won those games last season, we would have won the league at a canter, by 11 points. In fact, if we had won just one of those games we would have been champions.
Of course, it doesn’t work like that. Results against the rest of the pack change every season. Already this year we have drawn away to Fulham and Everton, games we lost comfortably last year. So, in that sense, we’re already got two points on Chelsea. By that argument, we’ll win the league.
Perhaps I am being hard on Sir Alex. He’s not an idiot. He knows all of this, and he knows the Premier League better than most. In any case, my pedantry aside, he’s probably right. We will find it significantly more difficult to win the title if we don’t pick up any points against Chelsea.
If you take out the results against each other last year, Chelsea dropped more points than United. It did, essentially, come down to those two games, although not in a useful, practical sense. Points could have been won or lost elsewhere that would have changed that picture. But the fact remains: beat Chelsea and you are a step closer to silverware.
The rest of the table echoes Ferguson’s comments. United managed home and away victories over the teams who finished third, fourth and fifth last year, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City, and those teams lost the vast majority of games against the teams who finished above them. Maybe that’s obvious, but it’s important nonetheless: the value of winning ‘six-pointers’ is reflected in the league table.
In that sense, Chelsea’s excellent start to the season isn’t necessarily something to get hot and bothered about. United haven’t suffered any genuinely bad results thus far, and as long as we keep up with the Jones’s we will have the chance to take points off them when it really matters.
They can batter Wigan and West Brom 6-0 all they want, but it’s the six-pointers against United that matter.
Will United beat Chelsea this season?