Manchester United are the sort of side that could drain the fun out of even the most dedicated Christmas devotee over the festive period, but in doing so they could well put themselves in the driving seat for the Premier League title.
It’s no secret that the Red Devils aren’t exactly sparking a footballing revolution in the north-west. They have been booed by their own supporters, derided by Paul Scholes and, much like the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day, they have sent many a man to sleep shortly after 3PM on their day off.
However, like it or not, they are still third in the top-flight and just one point off the summit. It’s baffling but it is true, so much so that the 6.00 around them being crowned Premier League champions may well be worth taking quick, before it is gone.
Louis van Gaal’s men resemble one of those three bird roasts that many people will tuck into over Christmas. They don’t quite know what they are, all the parts do not add up to the perfect flavour and when you put it on the table, it might not look pretty but they get the job done.
The Old Trafford club’s next seven league fixtures will be pivotal in shaping their interests in 2016. Those matches see Louis van Gaal’s troops face West Ham, Bournemouth, Norwich, Stoke, Chelsea, Swansea and Newcastle. Teams who have just five wins in their previous 28 Premier League games between them. This is the chance for the division’s most successful club to make their mark.
It is hard to see United losing any of those matches, with the exception of maybe Chelsea, if they somehow find a way to become associated with the word ‘revitalized’ before the turkey is done with. Even that clash with the Blues is at home, a venue where they have yet to lose this term in all competitions.
Their last seven games at home to the Hammers have produced seven victories, Eddie Howe’s men are winless since September, Stoke have only beaten United once in the Premier League, Swansea have a single success since August and Newcastle are working their way back to a point where it is difficult to know whether the goings on at St James’ Park are real or a spoof comedy.
It’s safe to say that’s an easy run for the 13-time champions, and it is one they must seize upon.
After that patch of seven contests follows a spell that sees Van Gaal’s side visit Liverpool and Chelsea and host Southampton and Arsenal in the space of six matches. That’s a tough run in anyone’s book, but should they enter those matches in pole position, confidence will be high and not losing will be even more of a habit than it already is.
In the aforementioned seven-match period their city rivals must face trips to Arsenal, Leicester and Watford, while Arsenal take on the Citizens, Southampton and Liverpool. The clubs around United will all be taking points from each other, and with no one seemingly able to find consistency, the initiative is there for them to grab.
Scoring goals has been United’s biggest issue, no team in the top five has fewer but the fact they have the league’s best defence bodes well. There will be no better opportunity for the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Memphis Depay and the player formerly known as Wayne Rooney to find their scoring boots than this.
Throw in the potential that the January transfer window brings and 2016 could give birth an in-form Manchester United with the addition of some high-quality firepower.
Forwards win matches and defences win titles, as the old phrase goes, and with no backline better than that of the Red Devils, December and January is the time United could make this title theirs.