So, in the end, it wasn't all nice and beautiful against Everton on Sunday but the job was yet again done by the winning machine that is Manchester United this season.
Admittedly, I could point out three Fergie sides that are technically better than the one we have this season. We're not even as easy on the eye as we were last season, but one thing the current side has over any Fergie side in the EPL era, its the ability to rack up wins. I remember that in 1997, we won 21 games all season enroute to winning the league. Yesterday's victory over Everton was the 21st win we've racked up this season and we still have 12 games left.
We've never had this number of wins before and we've never had as many points at this stage of the season before.
I also think it was at the start of this century when we last had a 12 point lead at the top of the league.
All the above stats explain why a couple of bookmakers have paid out on their bets this season on United winning the league. City's loss at Southampton meant that yesterday's match was a 'free fixture' for United who could take anything out of the game as a bonus. We had all the reasons to be complacent and even lose the match, not least that we have a small matter of a Champions League fixture with Real Madrid on Wednesday, and yet the players went about their job as though it was us trailing the leaders by 9 points.
That dogged determination to win games has now ensured that we've taken a threshold of the EPL title. With 12 points clear and 12 games left, it means that we need to lose at least four games before City can take the initiative---and that is if City go on a blinding run of form. Our +7 goal difference also gives us that little bit of edge that effectively means we need an almighty collapse to throw it away from here.
We didn't play well yesterday but we got the job done, so I can only have few complaints about it. The worry though is that we cannot afford to play like that when we travel to Spain on Wednesday. The culture of retreating to our own box when we don't have the ball doesn't work in modern day football. What works is that you have to press and hurry the opposition into making mistakes and giving back the ball. Real Madrid will do just that to us, as did Barca, and Athletic Club Bilbao. If our philosophy is anything to go by, we shall most likely retreat and give Real the freedom of the pitch to thread passes through our defence in which case we will be lucky to come away from there still in the tie.
What I pray we do is hurry them and press them up the pitch as that presents our best chance of coming away still in the tie. Real Madrid also have the one player in world football that shoots on sight. Ronaldo is the kind of player that will thrive on the space we gave Everton yesterday infront of our goal so hopefully something happens between now and then to eliminate all the above weaknesses in our game.
As a United fan that subscribes to reality, I'm going into this game with limited expectations, but with high hopes of something spectacular happening.....