Man United Will Win The Premier League - Arsenal Torture Their Fans And The Jury Is Out On CIty


They were not words I was expecting from a credible journalist who covers Premier League football.

"I think Manchester United will win the title," he told me.

And so I lived with the theory for a few hours. I looked around at the other teams that might stop United winning the title this season. And I concluded that this journalist was probably right.

Let's start a few miles across Manchester at the Etihad. Manuel Pellegrini's men started the season looking every bit the undeniable, irresistible force, but as much as their attacking firepower is ferocious, there's a vulnerability that shows no sign of abating.

The 4-1 loss at Tottenham might have proved a freak one-off, and then came a home defeat against Liverpool on Saturday to the same result. If the first game was a case of the scoreline flattering Tottenham, then the second was the opposite. City can think themselves fortunate they didn't lose by six or seven at the weekend.

If City continue to take three steps forward and one step back they're in danger of being outlasted by a less impressive, but more reliable foe. If slow and steady wins the race then maybe they're this season's take on Kevin Keegan's Newcastle.

Questions over City's mentality loom large. No matter how talented their squad is, you can't withstand too many blows like they took against Spurs and Liverpool without feeling the effects. Do City have the number of fiercely focused leaders they need in the dressing room to quickly regroup? The jury's out, but we'll get the result in the way their season goes from here.

Tactically speaking, Pellegrini also has work to do. He got it wrong against Liverpool and other teams looking on will have watched with interest at the way Jurgen Klopp's visitor’s gegenpressed the life out of City. It's no coincidence that Spurs have a similar lust for pressing intensity in this area.

Next, to Arsenal, habitual torturers of their own fans and eternal crushers of hope. If ever there was a season for Arsenal to win the title, this is it. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are world-class match-winners, they finally have a quality goalkeeper in Petr Cech and the competition is wilting around them.

And yet. While there's no scientific word for what will happen next, there should be. Arsenal will 'Arsenalise' away the opportunity, because they still don't seem to have the grit and pragmatism required to grind out the by-numbers wins you need to take a title.

Could that change with a strong signing or two in January? Or with the return of players like Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere from the injury list? Maybe, though I doubt it. Arsenal is as Arsenal does.

So who else? Leicester are a wonderful thing and we're all in love with them, but the fact they're top of the league and still 100-1 to win the title tells you that fairytale is not happening. Not unless they get £300 million to spend in January, buy Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and a few others anyway.

Tottenham? There's no denying Mauricio Pochettino has elevated his Spurs team into serious top-four contenders. He's built a tight, well-drilled unit that's sprinkled with flair and can be clinical. The fact he's incorporating so many young players speaks to a title challenge in the next two or three seasons. but not this one.

This is not a "you can't win anything with kids" argument, more a question of a squad and a club lacks recent experience when it comes to challenging at the summit. Confidence is building quickly, however, and Spurs can aim higher than fourth if they continue to play well and keep their key players fit.

That leaves Liverpool, who will improve under Klopp but cannot be deemed title ready until they buy in the summer. And Chelsea, who are simply too far adrift - in points and form - to fight back and defend their crown.

All of that combined makes it United's title to lose.

The limitations of Van Gaal's team this season are in plain sight every time they play. They pass for the sake of passing, they don't make enough chances, and they don't have enough players who can spark magic in the final third.

For all that they still have the combination of three things no other title pretender has this season - consistency, dogged determination and a squad packed with proven winners. It matters not that the consistency is lumpy gravy; it's still, as they say, gravy.

United won't blitz the title. They won't thrill us like United teams gone by, and they certainly won't be remembered among the best teams to take the Premier League crown, but in this season of wild fluctuations we should be looking to the team most likely to stay the course.

That team is Van Gaal's slow-passing band of brothers in red. They have the league's best central defender in Chris Smalling, its best goalkeeper in David De Gea and a midfield unit that's as good at any when it comes to shielding what's behind him.

If this were a vintage Premier League season United's lack of attacking fizz would cost them, but the ways things are looking they might just triumph with what they have. If that happens, and they add the required players in the summer, a new platform of dominance could be erected on one of the least impressive - and certainly the least entertaining - United sides in recent memory.

We've been so concerned with how Manchester United are playing this season we haven't given nearly enough thought to what they might achieve playing this way.

The truth is they might very well win it all. The worry for United fans will be what that means for the "attack attack attack" football they still long for at Old Trafford.