Manchester United legend Harry Gregg is confident his old team will win a record 19th league title — as long as Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar stays injury free.
Gregg, one of the shrewdest football minds around, has watched United with great interest this season.
For just about every United supporter, it’s life, but not as they know it.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are in the familiar position of being in top spot in the Premier League table, yet they have got there playing solid rather than the spectacular football we are all used to seeing at Old Trafford.
After 21 league games they remain unbeaten and are ahead of Manchester City on goal difference — their derby rivals having played two matches more.
Gregg, who became an icon at Old Trafford between the sticks from 1957 to 1968, is not convinced United, who host Birmingham tomorrow, will go all season without losing, but he does feel they will go on to win the title.
Assuming that is, nothing untoward happens to their experienced Dutch goalkeeper.
“I don’t think they will stay unbeaten throughout the course of the season, but there is every likelihood that they will win the league,” said the Northern Ireland great, who played in the 1958 World Cup finals.
“It is true that they are not playing in the spectacular fashion that has marked previous Manchester United teams out from the rest, but they are still getting results and ultimately that’s what counts.
“I don’t think Sir Alex Ferguson will be that bothered that United aren’t playing brilliant football, as long as they keep winning.
“Like me I’m sure he will feel there is more to come from his team and I’d be surprised if they didn’t play better than they have done so far between now and the end of the season.
“The only worry that I would have about United going on to win the league title is if anything happens to Edwin van der Sar.
“If he gets injured for a spell that will cause problems for United because in my book his replacement (Tomasz Kuszczak) is a liability.
“As far as I am concerned the two most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League are Van der Sar and Brad Friedel at Aston Villa.
“Van der Sar has a commanding presence and doesn’t make many mistakes.
“I know that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been playing well recently, and people have said United would be in difficulty if something hap
pened to one of them, but you can replace outfield players easier than specialists.
“For instance the Northern Ireland lad Jonny Evans could come in and do a job in central defence.
“Goalkeeping is different — and if and when Van der Sar retires, United will find it difficult replacing him long term.”
Rivals Manchester City seem to have no problems replacing anyone.
If they don’t think a certain player is up to the job, they go out and spend mega-bucks to bring a new recruit in.
Witness the £27 million they shelled out recently on striker Edin Dzeko.
Gregg, typically, has forthright views on the “noisy neighbours” as Fergie calls them.
“When I look at what is going on at Manchester City, I see it as a circus,” stated the 78-year-old.
“They have money to burn and are bringing players in from all over the place.
“I do believe that they will finish in the top three, which will obviously be their best position for many years.
“But I can’t help feeling that things just aren’t right inside the club.
“It is certainly a situation to keep an eye on.”