Are Manchester United really in the Premier League title race is a question I have found myself asking quite a bit this season.
United boss Louis van Gaal has now not ruled out a title bid this season.
United hosts relegation-threatened Aston Villa later today, with a five point lead over Liverpool in the race for the Champions League spots.
The Red Devils have hit a decent run of form which has saw them close the gap on second-place Manchester City in the Premier League table.
United boss Louis van Gaal has not ruled out a challenge for the Premier League title.
In his pre-match press conference the Dutchman said: “You never know. I have said at the end we shall find out. When we had 30 points out of 11 matches at that time there was a lot of criticism but I said we should find out at the end of the season.
“It’s still a rat race and Tottenham and Liverpool are still in. Of course we have dealt them a blow but we have to play against the first three. It can happen a lot.
“Still, we can win the title, mathematically.
In theory United could still win the Premier League title this season, but in theory so could many teams in the top half of the league. Mathematics is often used by managers to attempt to give their fans hope.
United have hit form at just the right time, winning the last four top-flight matches. Not only has it strengthened their stranglehold on a Champions League spot, it has also given the Red Devils a good chance of finishing in the top-two.
A United win against Villa on Saturday will move Van Gaal’s team above City in the team, as the Citizens do not play until Monday when they visit Crystal Palace.
Considering that Van Gaal’s methods were being questioned earlier in the campaign then moving into third spot at this point of the season would be very positive step forward for the Red Devils.
Despite it still being mathematically for United to win the title, it looks unrealistic at the moment. The Red Devils are currently eight points behind league leaders and title favourites Chelsea in the table. The Blues also have a game in-hand on the Red Devils.
That sort of lead is a relatively big one at this point of the season and the Blues have looked like champions elect for much of the campaign. I would be a major surprise if Jose Mourinho’s side collapsed at such a late stage of the season.
The Blues have thrown away big leads at the top in seasons gone by, even last season throwing away an eight point lead at one point. However, this season they seem to have more resolve about them in the Premier League at least.
Manchester United have improved this season under Van Gaal, but it was not hard considering the resources that Van Gaal had available to him in the summer. He was able to improve his squad and add quality to the team.
It would be hard to claim that Van Gaal has not improved the mood and confidence within the club since his summer arrival.
Louis Van Gaal was brought into the club to restore United to the Champions League and eventually challenge for the Premier League title. I doubt many United fans believed that their team would be genuine title contenders this season.
The veteran Dutch boss is not naïve enough to believe that his side are true title challengers this season and his recent comment is probably just an attempt to encourage the Red Devils fans for the rest of the season.
Manchester United will no doubt strengthen their squad in the summer and a challenge for the English title cannot be ruled out in the near future.
Van Gaal has the experience and the resources to build a title winning team, but I highly doubt that this season will be when the Red Devils recapture the Premier League crown.
Are Manchester United really in the title race?