Manchester United squad among best in English football history

Marching towards history: Fergie's United have more points now than Shankly's Liverpool, Wenger's Invincibles and Clough's Forest… and they are on course to become the greatest EVER team

-1355Projected: 95

NB: In seasons when two points were awarded
for a win points tallies have been converted into today’s equivalent

*42-game season

The Busby Babes, featuring Duncan Edwards and Dennis Viollet, had the equivalent of 49 points from the opening 22 games of their 1956 championship-winning campaign while Sir Matt Busby’s next famous side, starring the ‘Holy Trinity’ of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, secured just 44 points from their first 22 games of the 1966-67 season – the year before they won the European Cup by defeating Benfica 4-1 at Wembley.

But it is not just the great United sides that Ferguson’s squad is seeing off in their seemingly unstoppable pursuit of a 20th Premier League title. They have equalled the points haul amassed by a Jack Walker-funded Blackburn in 1994-95 and are three points better off than the Arsenal Invincibles were at this stage of the 2003-04 season.

However, Jose Mourinho’s 2005-06 Chelsea team – who share the record with United’s 1999-2000 side for the highest final points tally over the course a 38-game Premier League season with 91 points – are the only side in the Premier League era to better the standards being set by this United team, having gained 61 points from their first 22 league games.

But should United continue to gather up the points at the same rate as they have done so far this season they will be on course to beat that record for the most points gained during a Premier League campaign, with a projected 95 points at a ratio of 2.5 per game.

When we delve further back in time it is revealed that United’s haul of 18 wins from the opening 22 games has only been matched or bettered on four occasions – by Preston in 1888-89, Sunderland in 1891-92, Tottenham in 1960-61 and Chelsea in 2005-06. Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool only secured 17 wins from their first 22 games of the 1987-88 season, but five draws saw them on to 57, two points better off than United today.

Record-breakers: Chelsea amassed 91 points in 2005-06

Record-breakers: Chelsea amassed 91 points in 2005-06

This places this much-maligned United squad in a better position than all but one of Liverpool’s championship-winning sides, and comfortably sees off the points hauls secured after 22 games by Don Revie’s title winning teams at Leeds and Brian Clough’s league winners at Forest.

Teams to have won at least 18 of their opening 22 games of the season:

Man United

It seems difficult to believe that this United side is comfortably seeing off competition from some of the most celebrated sides in the history of English football.

United have already conceded 29 goals, leaving them on track to break the club’s worst defensive record in a single season in the Premier League era – the 45 goals conceded in the 1999-2000 title-winning campaign.

Class of 2000: Ferguson's sixth title was won at a canter

Class of 2000: Ferguson's sixth title was won at a canter

Doubts remain over the goalkeeping position, with David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard being rotated once again this season, while question marks hang over the defensive capabilities of full backs Rafael and Patrice Evra with Nemanja Vidic still being eased back in after long-term knee injury.

Further forward, many spectators still believe United to be short of a player with the drive and determination of a Roy Keane or Bryan Robson in the centre of midfield, while on the wing, Nani has fallen out of favour and Antonio Valencia has failed to produce anything like his best form for some time now.

Man Utd v the best teams in history (all points totals are three for a win):

Points after 22 games
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd
Don Revie’s Leeds United
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal
Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest
Bill Shankly’s Liverpool
Brian Clough’s Derby

Injury and sluggish showings have hindered Wayne Rooney’s season this time around, with the striker having scored just eight goals, compared with the seventeen he had this time last year. Fellow England forward Danny Welbeck may have impressed with his work rate and pace against Liverpool on Sunday but he must improve on his solitary United goal so far this term.

In spite of all the frailties, there is
no doubting the integral contribution being performed by Michael Carrick
in midfield and Van Persie, of course, up front – while Tom Cleverley
and Javier Hernandez have also been in sparkling form.

More to come: Rooney (centre) has been far from his best this season

More to come: Rooney (centre) has been far from his best this season

And whatever this United squad may lack in quality, they make up for with their strength of character and determination to win – a trait undoubtedly drilled into the squad by Ferguson. United have beaten Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea away from home and Liverpool and Arsenal at Old Trafford – edging all five games by the odd goal – demonstrating their ability to find a way to win a match.

United’s intensity will surely have been heightened after the heartbreak of losing the title to Manchester City last season – and it is a testament to Ferguson’s management that he is driving this squad to such record-breaking heights.