United get by with a little help from their 'friends'

On March 1 Chelsea beat Manchester United 2-1 then 5 days later Liverpool followed up with an emphatic 3-1 victory over the Red Devils. But it's United's ability to bounce back after setbacks like this that makes them a contender for the title every year. The Devils pushed on in the battle to win three in a row, putting them right back in first place, and in the driving seat. The EPL title is theirs to lose while at the same time it seems Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have already handed them the league. While Arsenal won at the weekend it's the three consecutive ties beforehand that will come back to haunt them. And the Gunners will rue the too many points dropped at the Emirates; in stark contrast to United, who rarely lose at Old Trafford. It was just before March 1 when Chelsea lost to Liverpool and tied 0-0 with Fulham. In fairness the Blues got their act together beating United, Man City and the unpredictable Blackpool. There was belief at Stamford Bridge; there still is, but it's been somewhat tamed. After last week's 1-1 tie against Stoke, Chelsea succumbed to a 1-0 loss to Man U in the Champions League. The Chelsea players are cautious about speaking out against the referee after the man in black denied them a certain penalty kick. Referee criticism does not wear well at UEFA but it was there for all to see -- Chelsea were robbed, it was a definite PK. In fact, there could have been two PKs for Chelsea. It's yet another reason why United win so many games: refs do have a tendency to buckle on big decisions and lean towards United's favor. And when games are in Old Trafford the pressure on refs to give United the benefit of the doubt or indeed a blatant let off is also there for all to see. Man City looked like laying down the gauntlet but it was Chelsea who took the wind out of their sails. Not only are the contenders handing the league back to Fergie, they are canceling each other out. While many believe that United seem destined to win the league Alex Ferguson will have his eye on the back-to-back May fixtures against Arsenal and Chelsea as the defining games. Meanwhile the opposition teams continue to hand the league on a plate to United.
Who Deserves Player of the Year? United are the clear favorites to win the league but picking the 2010 Player of the Year is a far more difficult undertaking. The short list developing is beginning to look a bit scary. Gareth Bale is getting a lot of notice for what he did earlier on in the season, but since then he has done nothing. He is by no means in the same league as Nemanja Vidic. The player that comes closest to Vidic presence for his team is Carlos Tevez. Seeing Samir Nasri and Nani in the hunt for this award causes concern. Player of the Year is based on consistency as well as brilliant moments. Even Berbotov is right up there in the nominations because he has indeed scored the most goals. Then there's the likes of Scott Parker who cannot be ignored for his West Ham contributions. These are names punters are throwing around. It doesn't look great does it? A wiser pick would be at the end of the season. For Soccer Scene, the most exciting thing that appeared in the 2010/11 season was Blackpool's Scottish international Charlie Adam.
The Relegation Battle Begins Sunderland, Birmingham and Blackpool have come tumbling down the table. Now they are looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone. At one point in the season these clubs were in line to be the surprise package of the season but the tables have been turned. Now they are competing with the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa, two teams very capable of withstanding the pressure of drop. The three Ws of West Ham, Wolves and Wigan have it all to do, but one of them may well pass Blackpool whose honeymoon in the Premier has come to incredible halt; fourth bottom in the league, just one point ahead of the Hammers.
Barca the Best in Champions League It looks impossible to beat Barcelona over two legs. They have an extra gear. They seem to be getting bolder and bolder with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. All three were penciled in as Barca's attack starting out against Shakhtar Donetsk. A team has a better chance against Barca in the final, just the one fixture. It's looking more and more like another Barca vs. United final. However Real Madrid and the Special One Jose Mourinho may have their own CL plans.

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