Five reasons Manchester United will still win the league title - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Five reasons Manchester United will still win the league title

Chelsea pulled off a brilliant victory last night but there were still signs aplenty of why Manchester United have the edge this season and why they look set to hold off Arsenal, who are now just four points behind with a game in hand, to claim the title. Chelsea can be pleased after last night but United need not fear.



1 Spectacular Rooney on the edge

All the fuss about whether or not Wayne Rooney should have been banned from last night's game for his elbow on Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy clearly had not affected the England striker, who scored with an explosive flourish after 30 minutes and then celebrated provocatively, posing with his arms spread wide in front of the Chelsea fans in the Matthew Harding Stand. The darker side of his game is never far from the surface, but he managed to keep his temper in check when it looked at first that he might lash out after a physical tussle with David Luiz. He was a threat all night.



2 Torres still finding his feet

For Chelsea, Fernando Torres is still yet to score in four games following his £50m move from Liverpool, but his confidence has not evaporated just yet, given the flamboyant way he went about his tussle with his old adversary Nemanja Vidic. The Spaniard did finally hit the back of the net, with a bouncing shot that ballooned into the goal, but referee Martin Atkinson had already blown his whistle for an infringement by Luiz. Torres's control and movement were sharp – the problem was Chelsea did not have enough of the ball to get it too him.



3 Van der Sar is a tough act to follow

Most men in their 40s have long since given up playing amateur football, but Edwin van der Sar is still performing at the same high standard into his 41st year. His improvised save to flick the ball away from Branislav Ivanovic, while the goalkeeper was on the ground having parried Frank Lampard's fierce freekick, was a moment of brilliance. His decision to retire at the end of the season will leave Sir Alex Ferguson with a big hole to fill. In many respects the ideal replacement was in goal for Chelsea last night, but there is no chance the Londoners would let Petr Cech leave for one of their main rivals.

4 Ancelotti's tactics played into United's hands

Chelsea started the game with a traditional 4-4-2 system that had worked last week in Copenhagen, but it failed last night, as the strikers were left isolated by Chelsea's midfield, which was outnumbered whenever United's wide players dropped deeper. Chelsea players also got in each other's way at times. Earlier in the season their interplay was intuitive, but last night it was laboured at times. It was individual brilliance (and luck with the penalty), not tactics, that earned them the victory.



5 Depth of squad

Chelsea strengthened in January with the arrivals of Torres and Luiz. However, their squad still looks thin compared to United's. When both managers looked to make changes in the second half, Carlo Ancelotti turned to Didier Drogba and Yuri Zhirkov. Ferguson, in contrast, was able to bring on Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs. He also has Antonio Valencia waiting in the wings and he will be back before the season's out.



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