The Andy Cole Column: A lesson from history: never write off United

Fired Up! In a title run-in like this, the only thing on your mind is 'win the game in front of you'

The Premier League title is Chelsea's to lose, but lose it they can. Before anyone starts accusing me of Fergie-esque mind games – just because I am an unashamed Manchester United fan – I acknowledge Chelsea are in pole position, and deserve to be. Winning 2-1 at Old Trafford two weeks ago showed they have the quality of champions.

In my own career I was involved in my fair share of title run-ins, mostly ending in success when I was at United. An equivalent for us of Chelsea winning at Old Trafford was when we went to Newcastle in early March 1996.

That was the Kevin Keegan "I'd love it" season. In January 1996 Newcastle had a 12-point lead. But we had started to close it down. That game in March was vital, and we won. Eric Cantona scored the only goal.

It turned out to be an important victory as we went on to win the Double. We topped the league with 82 points. Newcastle has 78. If that game at Newcastle had gone the other way, it would have been so different. If Chelsea do win the league this season, they'll look back at Old Trafford as pivotal.

But can Chelsea stay ahead? It's the billion ruble question. A look at the four remaining games that United and Chelsea face tell me it could to the wire. United are away at City in the Manchester derby tomorrow. Form goes out the window in derbies (thank goodness, given City's great run). United can win that.

They then play at home to Spurs, having a terrific season. But do I expect United to beat them at home? Yes, just as I expect United to win at Sunderland, then at home to Stoke. In other words, it is possible United will win 12 points. No easy games, but they can do it.

Chelsea face Tottenham tomorrow away. They are good enough to win, but Spurs, seeking fourth, should make it tough. They should certainly then win at home to Stoke, and their final game, at home to Wigan. But the penultimate game is at Liverpool. Again, not an easy fixture, especially if Liverpool are still in the chase for fourth place.

Could Chelsea win 12 points from 12? Yes. Do I think they will? No. Six minimum, maybe 10, probably eight or nine. One would have to think eight points would land the title; even if United won 12, they would have 85 in total, and Chelsea with eight more points would have 85 points and possibly a better goal difference. But you never know. Could Spurs or Liverpool beat Chelsea while the other of that pair draw? Yes. These permutations and possibilities are all part of a thrilling run-in that still has twists left.

United's most tightly fought run-in when I was there was in 1998-99. On the final day of the season, we were at home to Tottenham and needed to win to guarantee the title. Arsenal were only one point behind us and at home to Aston Villa. If we drew or lost while Arsenal won, they would be champions.

We started badly, going 1-0 down to Spurs; Les Ferdinand scored their goal and I could only watch, frustrated, from the bench. David Beckham equalised just before half-time, and then I went on in the second-half, replacing Teddy Sheringham.

In a match like that, even in a run-in like that, the only thing in your mind is "win this game in front of you". The Boss wasn't telling us every day "If you do X and Y, we'll get Z points". He didn't need to spell things out. Your mission is simply to win every game until you've won the title, or mathematically cannot win it.

That day in 1999, Arsenal won their game. Luckily I scored, with my first touch. We won 2-1, and the title. Relief. That was the major emotion.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor