It’s pretty much accepted amongst United fans that this current squad is of non-vintage standard. That despite this season’s table-topping performances & the title season before last, this post-Ronaldo squad would struggle to live with the teams of 93/94, 98/99 and 07/08. Possibly even the odd team in between as well.
In addition, City fans have spent the last three seasons talking about ‘Blue Moon Rising’ and ‘Tick Tock’ referencing a general decline in United’s performance & City’s relentless march to glory.
However, statistics paint an incredibly different picture, none moreso than analysing performance based on calendar year, not title season. One of nearly five years worth of United dominance not really reflected by actual trophy haul. And one in which United are the only club on a progressively upward curve.
At the end of 2012, I realised that United must have clocked up a pretty impressive points sequence throughout the calendar year. Despite injuries to key players, they’d matched City stride for stride to finish level in the 2011/12 title race and had started the 2012/3 season on fire. All in all, 30 wins from 39 games in 2012. That’s remarkable stuff. 93 points at an average of 2.38 points per game. Beyond title-winning form.
Going further back, United have actually been the highest points scorers in each of the past four years and have now started 2013 at their highest rate yet. Looking at the points hauls below it almost beggars belief how City managed to squeeze a title victory out of finishing level on points in between such ‘calendar year’ slammings. The same can be said of Chelsea’s title victory three seasons back.
What purpose does this statistical analysis serve? Well it’s about digging deeper than the old stereotype of labelling champions like City one-season wonders. For example, was City’s title-winning team actually any better than the Liverpool team that finished 2007/8 so strongly & went into 2009 seven points clear of a Ronaldo-inspired United. Statistically, there’s little between them but Liverpool’s form traversed a calendar year not a title season.
It also highlights some remarkable key trends:-
1. That United set the benchmark of winning points in football matches. There is little variance between the lowest average of 2.22 in 2008 & 2010 and the highest 2.38 in 2009 & 2012. Consistency of the highest order.
2. That Chelsea are on a consecutive four year downward spiral. Down from ‘United standard’ 2.26 in 2008 & 2009 to only 1.79 last year.
3. That City arguably peaked in 2011. They’ve not progressed their form past a peak average points haul lower than any of United’s from the past five seasons.
There’s no denying that looking at a calendar year as opposed to a title season doesn’t really give weight to the hustle and bustle of a run-in and the mental toughness required in key games such as the title decider at the Etihad last season. However, even the most blinkered rival must look at the numbers below and concede that Ferguson has kept United’s fire well and truly stoked.
Have a look and see if you can find a tick or a tock. I can’t.