When Manchester United won the Premier League title by an 11 point margin last May during Sir Alex Ferguson’s last campaign as manager, there was an argument that the title race might be a closer affair for the 2013-14 season. Few football punters could have predicted such a thrilling contest as being currently witnessed with four teams vying for the title and with Manchester United under David Moyes languishing in seventh position. Yet the team who finished seventh in May now has a clear chance of securing the Premier League crown.
Seventh place for Liverpool last season ensured that European football would not be played at Anfield during the current season, but what seemed to be a disaster at the time may eventually become a blessing in disguise.
Without the distraction of European football accompanied by the ensuing possibilities of added injuries and travelling fatigue, Liverpool have surprised many people by maintaining their challenge at the top of the table. They have been helped by the inspirational striking form of Luis Suarez but both Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge have developed as influential players with Steven Gerrard also beginning to adapt to a deeper role in midfield.
Raheem Sterling has also benefited from a spell out of the limelight to rediscover his early promise of last season and from being written off as a team in transition, Liverpool are now being mentioned as credible title winners which would be their first league crown since 1990.
Having already played and lost at the grounds of their three immediate challengers for the Premier League title, Liverpool must still welcome Manchester City and Chelsea to Anfield with their rivals hoping that they will not be consigned to the same 5-1 hammering which greeted Arsenal on their visit to Merseyside in early February.
Brendan Rodgers’ team have played fewer games than the other contenders during this campaign and have no additional fixtures to distract them from the remaining nine games this season. Without having to adopt a strict squad rotation system to cope with the demands of extra games, the team has demonstrated a great deal of togetherness by playing as a cohesive unit during recent weeks and months.
Injuries might yet play a part in deciding the title outcome, but if Liverpool can retain some luck in that department, there is still the possibility of them defying the pre-season odds when they were best priced at 4.50 (7/2) just to finish in the top three.
Should Liverpool win the Premier League in May, Manchester United may ultimately follow them down the path of proving that a season away from European football can have its blessings in the longer term.