Last season, Manchester United ran away with the Premier League title, taking 89 points and finishing 11 points in front of second-placed finishers Manchester City. After week 12, United never fell from first, and the title was decided on April 22, with a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. That gave Manchester United four weeks to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view from the top of the title winners’ platform.
Fast-forward to this season. After 22 rounds, the Red Devils are in 7th, 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal and six points out of fourth, the Premier League’s last Champions League slot. They’ve just lost 3-1 to Chelsea, in a match in which United looked unlikely to threaten for the majority of the minutes. Injuries to Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have left the squad rather toothless, while, with the exception of young Adnan Januzaj, the midfield is a mess. Manchester United may still be in the Champions League, but they’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea, and beaten 2-1 in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals by Sunderland.
David Moyes has certainly had to sail some rough waters in his first year at the helm. But the United manger isn’t prepared to give up. Instead, he’s still insisting his side have their eye on the Premier League trophy. Speaking after the Chelsea loss, Moyes said, “What we don’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there. The job is to finish first and we’ll try to do that.”
Perhaps hoping to placate nervous Manchester United fans, Moyes continued, saying, “This is a project. I know what I’m going to do and there will be changes as we go along the journey. It is a massive challenge. I hoped we’d be in a better position than we are, but we are not.”
While it’s nice that Moyes still retains a sense of optimism after what surely must’ve been a harrowing few months, it seems highly unlikely that Manchester United will mount a title challenge. Chelsea boss José Mourinho put things in perspective: “I am sure David won’t be upset with me if I tell the reality. It is a 14-point difference to Arsenal, then 13 to Manchester City and 12 to us. It needs three teams to almost have a collapse, so the title will be difficult for them.”