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Analysis Opinion Insight

Friday, May 7, 2010

5 Slip ups along the race.

Now that , Manchester United's Premier League title race looks run, the post-mortem can begin. Bar a miracle this weekend, the club look set to play second fiddle to Chelsea in the end of season standings as United sit one point behind with a single game to play. History will have to wait as a record-breaking 19th domestic crown seems at least one year away.

In a campaign that featured seven league defeats, there was more money to be made , via sports betting,from United’s defeats than wins .We have counted down the top five key moments when the league trophy slipped from the Red Devils' grasp...

BURNLEY BLUNDER

With one swing of Robbie Blake's boot, a new-found fallibility in Manchester United was put on display for all to see. In just the second game of the season, Burnley's 1-0 victory at Turf Moor sent an inviting message to the rest of the league,

Without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, the champions were left searching for goals. Freebie Michael Owen looked as valuable as his 'transfer fee', while Michael Carrick's penalty miss was crucial. The loss was the first to a newly-promoted side since 2005 and undermined the bedrock of the previous title bids when the lesser lights have been swatted aside with impunity.

DEFENSIVE INJURY DISASTER

An unprecedented winter injury crisis at the back for United robbed the team of the foundation of a successful title bid. While at the same time a year ago the club went a record breaking 14 league fixtures without conceding, Sir Alex Ferguson struggled to fill his team sheet in December. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, the Da Silva twins, John O'Shea and Jonny Evans all sat on the treatment table at different points.

The damage caused by the injuries has been overstated to a degree as makeshift centre-backs Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher filled in with surprising aplomb. The 3-0 thrashing by Fulham, however, proved a bridge too far and robbed United of some vital points.

REFEREE - CHELSEA’S 12TH MAN

In defeat at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, the man in the middle felt Sir Alex Ferguson's wrath. The loss in London featured a John Terry goal that came from an incorrectly called foul and Didier Drogba in an offside position, while the Ivorian netted in Manchester when the linesman's flag should have gone up again.

While Federico Macheda's strike looked to come off his hand in the Theatre of Dreams, a swing in the decision makers views could have seen United celebrate a fourth consecutive league trophy.

ANKLE PAIN, A SEASON IN VAIN.

From the moment Wayne Rooney's luck with injuries deserted him, United looked second best in the title race with Chelsea.The England international's injury time withdrawal against Bayern Munich saw him consigned to the sidelines as the league reached its crescendo. An April to forget followed as Dimitar Berbatov failed to fill in during the defeat to Chelsea and draw against Blackburn Rovers.

Rooney has borne the weight of United's title bid, with his 26 league goals more than doubling the Bulgarian's contribution. A better return on the £30.75 million handed to Tottenham Hotspur would have made next Sunday more comfortable.

SUMMER SALES, NOT SIGNINGS

United have dominated the transfer window in the past, but last summer was an exception to the rule. Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez's exits left the club two superstars short and with no ready-made replacements in hand. Antonio Valencia has shone, though Michael Owen's injury woe and Gabriel Obertan's inexperience has dampened their contribution.When Wayne Rooney didn't fire, the support cast has been found wanting. Five of the seven league defeats saw United scoreless and the fans frustrated as no-one looked capable of picking up the slack.

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