If you ask the football pundits and the British tabloids, Manchester United have already won the Premier League.
It's a preposterously premature claim, with just five games completed, but that's the bamboozling form the Red Devils are in right now! They are, if popular opinion is to go by, unbeatable. But will they, or can they, remain unbeaten until the end of the season?
Last season, Manchester United had 11 points from their first five matches, scoring 14 goals in the process. The Reds went on a long unbeaten run and soon got people comparing them to Arsenal's Invincibles. It took a spirited Wolverhampton Wanderers side to hand the Reds their first defeat of the season at Molineux in early February.
This season, Manchester United have started in blistering form, right from preseason. The Reds have scored a whopping 21 goals from their first five games and, needless to say, have won all of them.
What's even more impressive is that these five wins included a mauling of the two North London clubs—Tottenham (3-0) and Arsenal (8-2)—and a nervy, yet spirited performance against title rivals Chelsea (3-1).
Being the perennial slow starters, this sort of start to a season was virtually unheard of before. It has broken new grounds even for the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who has seen it all (well...almost) in his 25 years at Old Trafford. The last time United got off to a similar start was back in 1985, a year before Ferguson's arrival.
Murmurs of invincibility are thus resurfacing.
Although an unbeaten season isn't impossible, it is highly unlikely that United will be able to achieve it.
To use a cliched reasoning, the league has definitely gotten more competitive over the years. Anyone can beat anyone.
Stoke City, who will host United on Saturday, have stubbornly held the Spurs and Chelsea to home draws this season and also sneaked a win against Kenny Dalglish's resurgent Liverpool.
A trip to the Britannia stadium isn't the most enviable outing and Sir Alex's army will do well to come away with all three points.
Midweek games have also started for the Reds, with the Champions League and the Carling Cup matches. As the season progresses, the effect of having to play two games in a week is sure to take a toll on the squad, no matter how deep and solid it is.
However, speaking of squad depth, United have used 30 players in eight games in all competitions so far.
So United definitely have the resources and the potential to cope with the workload and nab the silverware in May. This should be the main focus and goal of the team and fans, not invincibility.
One cannot blame the media and fans for bringing up the "invincible" angle. The expectations from Manchester United have always been sky-high, where nothing is enough.
The thought even crossed Sir Alex's mind after the Chelsea game. He said, "Of course, you can't help wondering if it is going to last."
But the wise old Scotsman added, "After a lifetime in the game, football has taught me that there is often a banana skin around the corner."
Just as there is every possibility that United could be beaten in the very next game against Stoke City, there is every chance that they could go the whole season unbeaten.
United's mantra has always been to go out and win every game.
Now, you could say that every top team follows this mantra. But the difference between Sir Alex's side and its rivals is that Manchester United rarely go through long, rough patches.
They might occasionally get beaten 4-1 at Old Trafford and lose a couple of games in succession. But Manchester United will never, if I may use the phrase, do a Chelsea.
The Blues had gotten off to a similar start last year, only to go through a long slump mid-season and eventually surrender the title.
Ferguson will ensure that United do not follow a similar path.
It will be interesting to see how this new, youthful United side progresses through the season. They will soon encounter difficult away games and will, in most likelihood, lose a few matches on the way.
But the important thing is to bounce back from defeat, if tasted, and come out on top at the end of the season.
Can Manchester United go the whole season unbeaten?
Will Manchester United go the whole season unbeaten?
We'll just have to wait and see!
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