Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Alan Green: Under par, but Manchester United could end up with another treble

Ryan Giggs of Manchester United goes past Jonjo Shelvey of Liverpool during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 3rd round match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 9, 2011 in Manchester, England.

Manchester United supporters should only whisper the possibility amongst themselves but, unquestionably, another treble is within reach.

It’s not that the team is playing that well: they’re not; I haven’t seen a single truly impressive display from them this season.

But their record of results is staggering, just one defeat, with a mightily under-strength team at West Ham in the Carling Cup, in 31 outings. What happens if you play well?

They always looked to have a second goal in the locker against 10-man Liverpool had it been required. Though they had just two efforts on goal in the first half, I counted at least half a dozen saves Pepe Reina needed to make in the second period.

With due respect to Southampton, United’s berth in the last 16 of the FA Cup looks assured and, remember, the last time United beat Liverpool in the competition was in 1999.

When I wrote my half-season review, Chelsea seemed to be their biggest challengers in the Premier League. I really can’t understand why they’ve stumbled so badly.

One seven goal thrashing of a manager-less Ipswich won’t put the world to rights at Stamford Bridge but to call for the head of Ancelotti is ludicrous. How long is it since he won the double?

Yet, with Abramovich in charge, anything’s possible and that nine-point gap, with United also having a game in hand, looks pretty insurmountable.

Certainly, that’s what Sir Alex is hoping and I’d still rate Chelsea’s challenge higher than those above them. Which leaves the Champions League: yes, that’s the ‘biggie’.

Only Chelsea’s draw with Copenhagen was softer than Manchester United’s. Marseille are a decent side and have, in Didier Deschamps, a coach that I’m certain we’ll see one day in England; perhaps, at Anfield?

But United will be wholly confident of skipping past the French hurdle, beyond which, of course, there’ll be far tougher obstacles.

And that’s the question: have United ‘enough’ to cope against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan or Bayern Munich — against whom they failed last season — never mind the other three English clubs?

No, not on current form. But I think there’s better to come.

There’ve been interruptions but a sustained run seeing Ferdinand and Vidic together will undoubtedly strengthen an already sound defence into which the occasionally rash Rafael is settling quickly.

I thought Carrick looked far better on Sunday than he has on previous viewings and a selection drawn from him, the always reliable Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs and Park should produce a central midfield as good as anyone’s save Barcelona.

When might Valencia return to add to the width of Nani?

And, up front, Berbatov seems to have recovered the form of earlier in the season. Rooney, surely, has to get better? Those United fans dreaming of a second treble might well see it become reality.

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