Manchester United defeated Aston Villa 3-0 Monday night to secure their record 20th English Football title, and 13th title in the English Premier League era. Since the Premier League's inception in 1993 just five teams have ever won the title, and other then United, no team has ever won it more then three times. This year they not only won it with four games to spare, but they also have a chance to break Chelsea’s record for most points in a single season. What make their success all the more astonishing, is that Sir Alex Ferguson has rebuilt his United side several times over their run of 13 league titles, with his current side winning their fifth title in the past seven years. With the great success that this current side is having, it is time to ask if this current Manchester United team is the best team ever in the Premier League era, or is it simply the most consistent.
With the way the English Premier League is set up, each team playing every team once at home and once away, and the team with the most number of points being declared the champion, one can argue that the best team always wins the league. However one can also argue that it is the most consistent team all season that wins the league. After all, the top team doesn’t even have to beat the top four teams to win, they just need to beat everyone else.
While one team can play at the top of their game consistently for a whole season, it is really difficult for them to do it several years in a row. While Manchester City was almost unbeatable last year, they have put in a rather weak title defense campaign this year, and currently sit 15 points behind United, despite being the current runner up. During United’s five title winning seasons since 2007, they have seen challenges from Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City. However, since finishing as runners-up in 2009 Liverpool haven’t even sniffed a top four finish and they now spend their campaigns competing for Europa League spots. While Chelsea did manage to climb back and win the league in 2010, last season they finished outside of the top four, and this season find themselves right in the midst of battling for the fourth spot.
Meanwhile not only do Manchester United find themselves right in the thick of the title race every season, but one can argue this United squad easily should have won the title each of the last seven years. In 2010 United finished just one point behind Chelsea, while last season they lost to City on goal differential. While many people will blame Didier Drogba’s offside goal against United to give Chelsea the win at Old Trafford in 2010, you can also easily blame United for a 0-0 draw against Blackburn for failing to pick up max points which would have given them the title. Last season, United had an eight point lead over City in April that they let slip away, including a loss to Wigan, who were fighting to stay out of the relegation zone. Just a goal here and goal there and United would have won their seventh straight Premier League title, a mark of consistency that you can only pull off if you are the best.
The biggest argument against United being the dominant team they are perceived to be, is the lack of trophies over the past seven seasons. With City failing to come up with a good title defense, the title has been United’s to lose since about February. But many fans have said that such a dominant Premier League season almost seems like a failure due to the club not winning any other trophies. In fact, since 2007 the club has had a hard time picking up silverware.
While United did win the UEFA Champions League in 2008 that is about all they have to show for their efforts of being one of the best sides in Europe over the past seven years. They have reached the Champions League final on two other occasions, only to be dismantled by Barcelona each time. The only other trophies the club has won were back-to-back League Cup’s in 2009 and 2010, and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2008. Other then that, cup runs have been unsuccessful for this current United side. They reached the final of the FA Cup in 2007, losing to Chelsea in extra time, and lost in the semi finals in 2009 and 2011 to Everton and Manchester City respectively. The failures of the club to win trophies outside of the Premier League puts a damper on their resume for best team in Europe in the past few seasons.
After winning their fifth title and coming just a couple of points away from winning seven titles in a row, Manchester United has been the mark of consistency and greatness in the English Premier League era. But even during this great run of success, United have failed to find success outside of the league. Is their league record enough to consider them one of the best teams ever, or does it simply show that they were really good at beating the teams they needed to beat to win the league?