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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week