In terms of excitement, drama and pure unpredictability, this season’s title race is shaping up to be the best for many years and just when it looks like someone is about to pull away, to put a bit of clear water between themselves and second place, there’s another surprise lurking around the corner.
With United in FA Cup action at the weekend, I fully expected Arsenal to turn the screw by picking up three points at Wigan on Sunday. Fresh from their win in Milan — which had to be one of the finest performances by an English side in Europe for a decade – I thought the Gunners would have no problems at the JJB but instead the Latics pulled off the rare feat of stopping Arsenal scoring and collected a valuable point.
Fair play to Steve Bruce and his players. They’ve been on a decent run of form of late and getting harder and harder to beat but Sunday’s result was another example of how this title race simply refuses to conform to expectations.
There’s nine or 10 games to play for the top teams (remaining season fixtures here) and it’s anyone’s guess now what twists and turns are lying in wait.
I still believe United’s greater maturity, their experience of winning the title last season, give them a slight edge over Arsenal. I’m hugely impressed the way Arsenal have kept going considering the size of their squad and the average age of their players but United have some wily old campaigners who’ve been in this situation before.
United also have that bit more firepower going forward. Adebayor has been sensational for Arsenal but United have more players who can and do stick the ball in the back of the net.
Chelsea certainly aren’t out of it either. They’ve had a funny old season at Stamford Bridge and the domestic cups ultimately haven’t been kind to Avram Grant but the fact remains that if they win their games in hand, they’re within one more win over going level with or overhauling both United and Arsenal.
Chelsea have definitely become the dark horses. Perhaps talk of a two-horse race has worked in their favour because they’ve crept up quietly on the rails and there’s no doubt there’s now three teams in with a shout.
The tantalising thing is all three sides have to play each other before the trophy is handed out. United have got Arsenal at Old Trafford and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while Chelsea also have the Gunners at the Bridge.
This is where Liverpool come into the equation. They haven’t featured in the title race but they play Arsenal at Emirates and have to go to face United at Old Trafford. These two games could go a long, long way to deciding who is crowned Premier League champions.
Liverpool still have plenty to play for. Fourth spot and Champions League qualification is not yet in the bag and they’re still locked in a fascinating tussle with Everton. There’s also the matter of pride and a couple of wins over the top two would be something for the fans in what has been another disappointing season.
I say United with both my heart and my head but in all honesty, I don’t think anyone can predict what’s going to happen with any real confidence. No of the top three have really been able to stamp their authority on the title race and whoever ends up popping the champagne in May, it’s going to be tight right until the death.
Written by former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister and first published on 4sportsake.com.