It’s now seven rounds into the new Premier League season, and with the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson from his longstanding position as manager, Manchester United are currently experiencing their worse start to a campaign since 1989.
United lost again last weekend, unexpectedly falling to West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at Old Trafford. Manager David Moyes at last admitted there were “concerns” after the shock home loss, with last year’s Premier League winners now sitting on a mere seven points from six games.
But from a broader viewpoint, Sir Alex’s departure seems to have destabilized the Premier League in a way that surely must delight everyone, except perhaps fans of Manchester United.
After all, United are not the only powerhouse Manchester club whose season is not sticking exactly to script thus far.
Manchester City, tipped by many pundits as title favorites, missed a chance to go top of the table last weekend, when they suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat away to Aston Villa. Meanwhile down in London, last Saturday’s 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham could perhaps provide fodder for the argument that Spurs have successfully closed the gap between themselves and the various teams generally regarded as title contenders.
Elsewhere in North London, Arsenal, a team many thought needed a complete rebuild to keep the pace with the aforementioned clubs, registered their eighth straight road win to open up a lead at the top of the table.
Liverpool have restored Luis Suarez to the lineup and continued their good early season form with a decisive 3-1 win away to Sunderland last Sunday. Liverpool must surely be included in any conversation regarding title contenders, especially now that the Uruguayan is back on the pitch scoring goals.
Meanwhile Aston Villa have been busy slaying giants, with wins over City and Arsenal. Along with Everton and Swansea, they could perhaps be regarded as potential dark horse contenders for the European spots.
With Moyes inheriting essentially the same side that won the title last season, now presumably enhanced by the addition of Marouane Fellaini, it’s hard not to feel that United’s 20th Premier League crown was as much down to the force of Alex Ferguson’s will as it was to the quality of the current squad. Sir Alex was renowned for his ability to squeeze the best out of players and sides. He had a knack for galvanizing teams and making them better than they actually were. The apparent averageness of the side currently being fielded by Moyes is a clear demonstration of this.
It’s still early days and we’re a few weeks shy of the ten-game mark; where many feel the true shape of the Premier League table begins to reveal itself. And obviously any table in which a newly promoted side like Southampton sits higher than both Manchester clubs probably still has some settling to do.
David Moyes is a very good football manager and will most likely turn out to be a great success at Manchester United. But for now, as Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini struggle to acclimate to the rigors of managing English football’s biggest clubs, and Jose Mourinho is only perhaps beginning to emerge from the worst start to a season in the Abramovich era, the rest of us can sit back and relish the spectacle of a Premier League race that’s started off looking like the most open in at least a decade.