Are Manchester United serious Premier League title contenders?

Wayne Rooney and Phil Neville have said the summit of the table is not out of reach

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The Independent Football

Confidence is growing at Manchester United.

Despite making the worst start to a season since 1986, in the space of a few weeks Louis van Gaal's side have risen up the table and taken the levels of optimism up with them.

Six wins on the bounce, including away victories over Arsenal and Southampton and most recently a 3-0 result against their arch rivals Liverpool, have taken them up to third in the table. Now there is talk of them going even higher.

“I think we have to believe we can win the title," said captain Wayne Rooney. "We are eight points behind and coming into a busy period. If we can win our games and the others have one bad result then there is nothing there. We have been here before but we have a lot of new players and this is where the experience of myself, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can rub off on the other players.

"We have to keep winning our games and hopefully get back to the top and you never know."

It's not just those inside the club that are beginning to believe. Former player and coach Phil Neville replied "Yes, they can" when asked if United can win the title.

"At the moment, they've got the momentum and you just never know."

So, can Manchester United win the title?

The Christmas schedule is always a key time with some clubs tending to fall by the wayside amid the tightly packed fixtures and others solidifying their position or becoming contenders with a run of results.

Manchester United have a run of matches over the festive period that they can be confident of taking maximum points from. They play away against Aston Villa, Tottenham and Stoke and at home to Newcastle in their next four matches.

Intriguingly, league leaders Chelsea also have away games against Stoke and Tottenham to come, plus an away fixture against Southampton and a London derby with West Ham at Stamford Bridge.

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League leaders Chelsea face a couple of London derbies over the festive period

 

Manchester City, who lead their nearest rivals by five points, play at home against Crystal Palace, Burnley and Sunderland with an away trip against West Brom in between.

The top three teams in the league will all be hoping to pick up 12 points between now and the end of New Year's Day, however it rarely works out like that and United will be hoping it is they who can capitalise.

 

If Rooney's side are to chase down their rivals though, then an eight day period in April will be crucial. Manchester City come to Old Trafford on April 11 before Van Gaal's side travel to London to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a week later. Those fixtures could well fall amid Champions League commitments for City and Chelsea if they manage to progress beyond the Round of 16 in Europe.

However, Europe won't be a concern for United who can solely focus on domestic matters. Like Liverpool last season, the lack of continental football could be the making of their Premier League campaign. At this stage last term, Liverpool were fourth and Chelsea were leading the way. Ultimately Brendan Rodgers' side fell one point short, but the title was in their grasp. The chances of United going the whole way this season shouldn't be dismissed.

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