Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Manchester United invincible? You must be kidding!

It’s 21 today. That’s how many Premier League games Manchester United have gone unbeaten this season.

Remarkable really, given that the current side is Sir Alex Ferguson’s least impressive since he started racking up the trophies in 1990 as Old Trafford supremo.

Not nearly as easy on the eye as Fergie teams of yesteryear, you have to give them credit for the fact that they are extremely tough to beat.

It’s more about character than class at United these days with a team built on the solidity of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at the back.

In attack they have had their moments this season, but with Wayne Rooney still misfiring, those moments have been few and far between.

It hasn’t stopped them topping the Premier League table, though perhaps that says much about top flight football in England at present.

On Sunday they were supposed to face one of their biggest tests yet against a free-flowing and in form Tottenham side.

Spurs, however, flattered to deceive and in the end even though they were down to 10 men for the final 15 minutes, due to Rafael’s red card, United comfortably held on for a scoreless draw.

The more games they go unbeaten, the more pundits will talk about the possibility of them being invincible throughout the campaign.

Yet according to United defender Patrice Evra, the record is not being discussed in the dressing room.

“Nobody in the squad is talking about that challenge,” he said.

“We’re only talking about winning the league. That’s the most important thing.

“For the Spurs game all the country was against Manchester United — everybody wanted us to lose. But we didn’t lose.”

Ferguson thinks his team WILL lose before the season is out. So too Spurs boss Harry Redknapp who declared it would be “a miracle” if United completed 38 league games without defeat.

Number 22 shouldn’t be much of a problem with Birmingham the visitors on Saturday.

Indeed, with their brilliant home record this season it’s almost impossible to see them losing at Old Trafford in the remainder of the season.

So far, they have won 10 and drawn one of their 11 league games at home.

The only scare they’ve had at the Theatre of Dreams was when a Chris Brunt inspired West Brom came from two down to draw 2-2.

Title contenders Manchester City are the only side still to play at Old Trafford capable of going there and winning.

On the road United should have tasted defeat already, but they have constantly got out of jail, drawing EIGHT times in 10 matches.

The two they won against Stoke and West Brom were fortunate because Gary Neville should have been sent off in both games.

As for all those draws, Sunderland and Bolton know they ought to have defeated United while Aston Villa made a right mess of things when they cruised to a 2-0 lead only to capitulate late on and draw 2-2.

Even Fergie admitted after that one that his team should have lost by “five or six”.

The next away game for United will be intriguing with Blackpool taking on the might of the league leaders.

If Evra thought every neutral was cheering on Spurs at the weekend, wait until he plays in this fixture. The world and his wife will want little Blackpool to get one over United.

After the trip to the seaside, bigger challenges await for Fergie’s team on their travels, with high intensity affairs at Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

The Gunners, of course, were the last team to go through a season undefeated, back in 2003-2004.

Comparing that Arsenal team to the current United side is like contrasting Elvis with Mick Hucknall. Charisma oozed out of the 2004 Arsenal outfit, which contained Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg at their brilliant best.

That team and those players truly were invincible.

United — labelled by some cynics as The Unconvincables — have a long way to go to merit that mantle; 17 games in fact. They won’t do it. The unbeaten run will end some time in the months to come.

Even so, they are likely to have the Premier League title to cheer, which, as Evra says, is what they are really after.

Belfast Telegraph


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