Can Man U Finish Above Everton & Spurs and Make the Top Six? – by Rob Atkinson


City beat scum

Man U – also rans?

The longer this Premier League season goes on, the clearer it is that there is a mini-league, right at the top, of teams who are frankly in a different class to the rest.  The question is – how big is this league within a league?  The thoroughbreds appear obvious – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.  But coming up on the rails, we seem to have decent stayers in Everton and Spurs.  These latter two appear destined to create a buffer-zone – a sort of No-Man’s Land – between the Champions League qualifiers above them and the rest below.

It’s been the kind of weekend to reinforce such impressions.  Arsenal were below their fluent best and reduced to ten men, but won competently at Palace 2-0.  Chelsea and Manchester City served up a gourmet’s delight of a match that looked likely to be a top-drawer draw until Joe Hart’s late cock-up presented Torres with a winner.  Liverpool with Suarez irresistible and Sturridge’s sublime finish look as if they are intent on returning to the top table.  Spurs and Everton won as well, without the shimmering class of the top four, but hanging in there.

But what of Man U?  What indeed.  The media are still liable to get into a heck of a froth about them, given the least encouragement.  One TV commentator yesterday was screaming “Never write them off!” as they came from behind to beat ….. Stoke.  At home. Ring-a-ding ding.  The gulf between the formerly dominant Pride of Devon and the cream at the top of the pail, though, is currently a yawning chasm.  On today’s form, Man City and Chelsea, engaged in a titanic struggle at Stamford Bridge, would have had no trouble sweeping aside the fragmented resistance and feeble assaults that were in evidence at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.

If I were a Man U fan, I’d be worried.  Actually, if I were a Man U fan, I’d be utterly disgusted with myself and would probably curl up and die of self-loathing, but you take my meaning.  Man U fans should be worried.  Their edifice is built on perpetual Champions League qualification, and that must be in severe doubt as things stand.  If they don’t qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and all the oodles of millions that go with it, how will the Glazers’ balance sheet look then?  “More than a bit sick” is a very educated guess.

Indeed, far from trying to figure out which of that likely top four they might hope to displace, the money men at Man U should be scratching their heads and wondering whether they can realistically hope to out-perform Spurs and Everton – because if they can’t, then a finish outside the top six beckons, with no European competition at all. Then that Glazer-inspired leveraged buyout, with all the debt it has accrued, starts to look seriously scary.  But, as you’d currently expect either Everton or Spurs to beat Man U, this is a real prospect – the ailing champs have no divine right to a European berth (although I’d bet good money they’d get a wild card through winning the Fair-Play League, or the Refs’ Best Mates League, or something).  The bottom line is, though – the immediate prospects for Man U look as bleak as they have for a while.

You don’t have to look far for the reason behind this.  The tyrant is no longer on his dictatorial throne – Fergie is gone.  Instead, you have a middling sort of chap in Moyes, about whom the current joke runs that he’s wanted to get Everton above Man U for ten years, and has only now managed to achieve it.  With Fergie went Man U’s edge – the fear of the wattled Glaswegian’s wrath which was the best motivation tool of all.  Try though the media might – driven by their concerns over markets and reading/viewing figures – you cannot, as they say, polish a turd.  Trying to talk up Man U’s chances of league success this season is a futile attempt to do precisely that.

So, the Kings are dead – long live the Kings.  But which Kings?  Who will be ascending the throne?  It’s difficult to say, because the clutch of class at the top of the Premier League is closely-matched indeed, and all the more thrilling and entertaining for that. My heart says Arsenal, because I love their football – but sadly the virtuoso moments like Wilshere’s finish, on the end of a quicksilver three-man dance through Norwich’s defence, sometimes lack for the requisite steel to back them up, as Dortmund demonstrated last week.  But Arsenal will be up there.

Liverpool will be there too.  But I fancy Arsenal and Liverpool to be third and fourth at the end of the campaign.  Chelsea and City should fight it out, and out of those two, it’s just a case of “may the best team win”.  With my arm twisted up my back, I might just go for City – if they can cut out those suicidal mistakes.

And it might just be worth a punt on Man U to finish behind Everton and Spurs at seventh or below.  You’ll probably get good odds – try BetFred, if he’s not already paying out on bets for the Pride of Devon to win the league.  For some, the New Order will take a bit of getting used to…

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22 responses to “Can Man U Finish Above Everton & Spurs and Make the Top Six? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Man United are playing some of the worst stuff and are 8 points off the top and are 5 points off spurs who are in 4th place. Everton, Liverppol and Arsenal are the only teams in the league who are playing to their potential and you cannot expect them to be in that form forever. There will be slip-ups. I can understand the enjoyment of many people because united are playing poorly and are not winning but 5 points is not much and there are still 29 games to go

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  2. hahaha let me laugh at your wish! Am sure you’ll still be blogging at the end of season. While utds chance of winning the championship is slim, they will definitely be there with the top

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  3. I’m not convinced my Liverpool’s inclusion as a “thoroughbred” I’m afraid Rob! They have had a great start and have two very good strikers up top, but their toughest game so far has been against a United side who – as you point out – are as poor as I’ve seen them in my lifetime (and I’m 28!). Between now and Christmas Liverpool go away to Everton, Spurs, City, Arsenal and Chelsea – that’s when we’ll really learn if they are top four material this year. For me, and being a Spurs fan this is hard to admit, it is Chelsea, City and Arsenal who are all-but guaranteed top four spots on current form, and the rest is very open. I totally agree that Man Utd should be very worried as they look so poor. Their saving grace is they have two game changers up front, and will have money to spend in January…but I just feel as though they may drop too far behind the pack and have too much to do by then.

    If I had to stick my neck out, I’d say City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, United, Everton – but only because Everton have a thin squad and may lose Baines in January.

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  4. Remarkable analysis. Do you miss Leeds being in the premier league?

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  5. I have never read such bullshit, arsenal and Liverpool have had easy fixture list and will drop points soon and both their squads are not strong enough, I expect man city, Chelsea and spurs to be top 3 don’t know order but would bet Chelsea to win, arsenal and utd to fight for 4th and Liverpool to scrap Everton Southampton and Swansea in their own little league!

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  6. Hi Rob, hopefully you are correct and the Glaziers will do one, leaving the door open for a rich arab sugar daddy or russian oil billionaire to turn Manchester United into the Real Madrid of the Premier league, as they say every cloud !

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  7. An eloquent, knowledgeable article, with which I agree wholeheartedly. For one, I miss your presence in the top flight.

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  8. Evertonian fan here (albeit NZ based so no ‘provincial/regional/dialect’ axes to grind…well, not much!). Enjoyable commentary you provide Rob; and many a true word spoken in jest/ tongue in cheek!.
    Man U were (despite their table dominance), looking decidedly wobbly in a lot of their games last season. I think the ‘Fergie factor’ was influential in getting them over the line in 90% of these…and fair dos.
    But Moyes has been passed a VERY poisoned chalice and whilst I revered the man who saved/rebuilt ‘The House of Everton’ , ALOT of respect has gone in his now trying to destroy it’s modest (i.e. wealth-wise) foundations so that his new palace at Old Trafford can add a new guest wing.
    This season’s top 3, to me, are looking City, Chelsea, Arsenal. Fourth will be between Liverpool, Utd and Spurs. But I think United might be last in this triumvirate.
    Southampton and Everton (who I love) will find the labours of the season overtaxes their squad (money again!).
    PS: would like to see Leeds back in the top flight…awesome history!

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    • Thanks Andrew, can’t fault your logic. It’s kind of you to speak well of our history – we have a common memory in “The Battle of Goodison Park” unless that’s before your time! I just hope you can hang on to Baines, but it’s not looking that way – he’s a level-headed individual but I get the feeling he’s been seduced by fool’s gold. It must make the job easier for Moyes and Taggart before him when you can rely on the media and England squad gossip to do your tapping-up for you! You have an excellent manager going forward, and I wish you all the best. Everton seem a much more enlightened club now than they perhaps were a few decades back. Good luck and thanks again.

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  9. One of the worst things I’ve ever read. We’re not even 10 games into a season and you’re writing Man united off? You’re picking a top four and leaving spurs out and putting Liverpool in? When Liverpool haven’t been anywhere near the top four for years, finished below Everton the previous two seasons. If you’re counter argument would be current form how could you neglect to mention Southampton? You know, the team with the best defence in the country? The team that hasn’t allowed theie opponents to have more than three shots in a game this season? You’re very lazy, uneducated and deluded when it comes to football, please never bother to chalk up any more drivel about something you have no idea about. Thanks

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  10. For me its arsenal , they made the best buy of the summer and he’s made a good team look like potential champions

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