Dozen games to win a treble

Manchester United can replicate the 1999 treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League this season but it’ll take nearly a dozen cup final performances to do it following Tuesday night’s victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford. With an FA Cup semi-final to come against Manchester City on Saturday, and a two-legged European semi-final against Schalke bracketing Premier League ties against Chelsea and Arsenal, United faces a hugely demanding season’s end.

Indeed, should Sir Alex Ferguson’s side make the FA Cup final after this weekend’s semi, the longest break his team will be afforded between now and the Champions League final on 28 May is just six days; a truly punishing schedule. Unless United loses at the weekend, Ferguson’s team will play two Premier League games after the FA Cup final – due to take place on 14 May – before a potential Champions League showpiece at Wembley.

Yet, with the Reds hitting top gear for arguably the first time this season, and Ferguson’s squad now almost fully fit, United supporters can dare to dream. Wayne Rooney’s return to sparkling form, even if the 25-year-old is suspended from the FA Cup semi, Antonio Valencia’s fitness and Rio Ferdinand’s reassuring presence make a huge difference to Ferguson’s options. Against Chelsea, Michael Carrick again stepped up a level, while Park Ji-Sung added another crucial goal to his impressive big-game collection.

It is impeccable timing from a side that had so rarely impressed during the opening six months of the season.

“I think we’ve hit our form, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Ferguson told Sky Sports after United’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Tuesday night.

“You’ve seen it in the second half at West Ham and the performance at Chelsea, plus the performance tonight. It’s a really good moment for us and the players are enjoying it. I think they’re relishing the challenges they’ve got now. You see the momentum the team’s under at the moment.

“Momentum is a great thing. everyone’s desperate to play on Saturday against Manchester City and they’re all desperate to play in every game now. The bonus I’ve got is that all my players are getting fit again now, and that’s a great boost to us.”

Will United win the treble?

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While Ferguson’s players will all want to play, the manager’s challenge is to rotate his resources at the right time, ensuring rested limbs but minimising the risk of dropped points. Yet, the Scot’s tendency to make five, six or eight changes in games he considers ‘winnable’ often plays into the opponents hands. The Reds’ muted performance against Fulham at the weekend is a case in point.

With games against mid-table Newcastle United and Everton coming up before fixtures with London title rivals Chelsea and Arsenal, Ferguson faces a considerable dilemma. Common sense says the Scot must rest key players before a likely Champions League tie with Schalke. However, lost points will only increase the pressure on United ahead of that crucial double-header with Chelsea and Arsenal in early May. By contrast two victories in upcoming Premier League matches may kill the title race stone-dead before May. There is, after all, no guarantee that Arsenal will take maximum points from games against Liverpool and then Tottenham Hotspur.

It’s a cliché of course, but modern football is indeed a squad game. Much as Ferguson’s side will win key matches with big performances from star players, the whole squad will pick up crucial points elsewhere. In this Wes Brown is as important as Ferdinand; Dimitar Berbatov as Rooney; Park as Ryan Giggs.

It is still a long road of course. With barely a midweek off for the next six weeks tired limbs and minds will inevitably lead to mistakes and therefore dropped points. Perusing the fixture list – Arsenal and Chelsea aside – Ferguson will look to United’s away fixtures first against Newcastle and then at Blackburn Rovers as potential banana skins. After all, the lifeless draw at Ewood Park last season effectively cost United the title and Ferguson’s side has so rarely sparkled on the road this campaign.

Yet, City’s inconsistency – allied to that of Arsenal’s – points to a Premier League victory and a place in the FA Cup final at the very least. In Europe, while Schalke has performed admirably in the Champions League, Ralf Rangnick’s side is still mid-table in the Bundesliga, although greatly recharged under new management. Still, Ferguson will surely feel that not since United faced – and lost to – Bayern Leverkusen in 2001 has the route to a European final been so open.

Then, if progress goes to plan, comes Barcelona or Real Madrid at Wembley in late May. At the season’s start, with Ferguson arguably possessing his weakest squad in five years, few pundits predicted a United league win, let alone a treble. And in a one-off game, even Barça is beatable. Perhaps.

Remaining Fixtures

OpponentCompetitionVenueDateTime
Manchester CityFA Cup (semi)Wembley16/45.15pm
NewcastlePremier LeagueSt James' Park19/47.45pm
EvertonPremier LeagueOld Trafford23/412.45pm
SchalkeChampions League (semi)Veltins-Arena26/47.45pm
ArsenalPremier LeagueEmirates1/52.05pm
SchalkeChampions League (semi)Old Trafford4/57.45pm
ChelseaPremier LeagueOld Trafford8/54.10pm
Stoke/BoltonFA Cup (final)Wembley14/53pm
BlackburnPremier LeagueEwood Park17/57.45pm
BlackpoolPremier LeagueOld Trafford22/54pm
Real Madrid / BarcelonaChampions League (final)Wembley28/57.45pm
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Comments

  1. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    I’m confident of winning the league and FA Cup, less so about the Champions League, but in a topsy-turvy season like this anything is possible. It would seem almost insulting in a way though that this current team could possibly emulate what arguably the greatest United team in history accomplished.

    • Jaffyjofer says

      You could argue that it would be insulting to the 99 team if this current team emulated them. However, it would truly be a testament to Fergie’s fantastic managerial ability if they did.

      • mongoletsi says

        A lot round here will disagree, but you have to hand it to him. We’re not in THREE competitions because all rivals are rubbish. But that does help :o)

  2. Jaffyjofer says

    I dont know if my heart will be able to take all the coming drama. No doubt in true United fashion, they won’t do it the easy way.

    I may have to invest in adult nappies during the run in.

  3. sheesh says

    I hate all this talk about winning the treble. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We’ve not even wrapped up the league yet. One game at a time.

  4. Gabagool says

    A lot if people, myself included, have massively underestimated the desire and will to win of this team. Yes they’ve been very ordinary at times and we’re only in poll position for the league cos other teams have been worse, but to have the unbeaten run they did this year and still “win ugly” when it counted shows what they’re made of. Add the injuries to that too.
    Bring in 2/3 quality players this summer and we’re looking good.
    Proves the genius of Fergie to be in this position with what he’s had at his disposal.

  5. bman says

    Arsenal have 7 games left. I reckon the best they could possibly do is 5 wins and 2 draws, which would take them to 79. Without hoping for a better goal difference, that means we need 11 points from 6 games to get to 80 and win the title. That’s only 3 wins, 2 draws, and a loss, so I feel pretty confident about the PL.

    Think we might go out to City in the FA Cup through a penalty shoot out. Then piss all over Schalke, and who knows what will happen in the CL final, although I think that there’s a very good chance of Vida being suspended for receiving two yellows…

    • Ash says

      “Think we might go out to City in the FA Cup through a penalty shoot out”
      I dont agree with you on this.I think and i BELIEVE we will beat city in the F.A cup.

  6. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    sheesh said:
    I hate all this talk about winning the treble. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We’ve not even wrapped up the league yet. One game at a time.

    I agree, but having said that… it’s bloody exciting, innit?

    Beginning of the season, who would have thought, eh?

  7. herbie simms says

    The team spirit is high at the moment and the players are focused on winning. This is great stuff. Maybe we should not make too many negative comments about the players but lets give the team the support they need to keep winning.

  8. kramer says

    Blog Commenter said:
    A lot if people, myself included, have massively underestimated the desire and will to win of this team. Yes they’ve been very ordinary at times and we’re only in poll position for the league cos other teams have been worse, but to have the unbeaten run they did this year and still “win ugly” when it counted shows what they’re made of. Add the injuries to that too.
    Bring in 2/3 quality players this summer and we’re looking good.
    Proves the genius of Fergie to be in this position with what he’s had at his disposal.

    good post. i don’t think this team has any chance in the final, especially against barcelona. but considering how shit i thought it was at the start of the season, even getting to the semis of the champions’ league and knocking chelski out is a great achievement.
    i think some stars are getting made – nani looks like a champion, hopefully rooney’s over his idiocy and will accept that he has to lead this team, smalling is good, valencia is solid, the da silvas are class and chicharito is a live wire.
    getting a bastard central midfielder should sort us out for a few seasons.

  9. bman says

    Blog Commenter said:
    “Think we might go out to City in the FA Cup through a penalty shoot out”
    I dont agree with you on this.I think and i BELIEVE we will beat city in the F.A cup.

    City might shut up shop though and subject is to a bore draw to be settled by penalties. Especially with no Tevez, and they’ll be terrified of losing. Or do they play again in that case? I can’t remember.

  10. bman says

    kramer said:
    good post. i don’t think this team has any chance in the final, especially against barcelona. but considering how shit i thought it was at the start of the season, even getting to the semis of the champions’ league and knocking chelski out is a great achievement.
    i think some stars are getting made – nani looks like a champion, hopefully rooney’s over his idiocy and will accept that he has to lead this team, smalling is good, valencia is solid, the da silvas are class and chicharito is a live wire.
    getting a bastard central midfielder should sort us out for a few seasons.

    You never know what could happen in a single match against any opposition, if we get that far. Whether it’s a rematch against Barca or a showdown with Ronaldo, there’ll be a lot of drama. Real and Barca might wear each other out, force some yellows, suspensions, or injuries. I reckon we’ll have a fairly routine success against Schalke; they put 7 past the current champions, but Leonardo and Inter looked a bit clueless.

    With Rio, Vida, and VDS, our defense is better than either Barca or Real’s, and our main attacking trio of Nani, Roo, and Hernandez are as good as the Spanish teams. It’s midfield, obviously, where we’re weaker, but Fergie’ll have an idea about that.

  11. kramer says

    bman said:
    You never know what could happen in a single match against any opposition, if we get that far. Whether it’s a rematch against Barca or a showdown with Ronaldo, there’ll be a lot of drama. Real and Barca might wear each other out, force some yellows, suspensions, or injuries. I reckon we’ll have a fairly routine success against Schalke; they put 7 past the current champions, but Leonardo and Inter looked a bit clueless.

    With Rio, Vida, and VDS, our defense is better than either Barca or Real’s, and our main attacking trio of Nani, Roo, and Hernandez are as good as the Spanish teams. It’s midfield, obviously, where we’re weaker, but Fergie’ll have an idea about that.

    our defence is better, but our midfield and forward lines are worse.
    anyway, comparing teams by comparing individual players never works. united probably wouldn’t beat chelski man for man, but the cohesion, understanding and unity in our team is much greater. that, and every man knows his job.
    by the same token, this barca side is one of the greatest ever, they not only have fantastic individuals but also a superb work ethic and understanding. i just can’t see us matching their quality. against real, i’d be afraid of ronaldo. you just know that fucker will win them the game.

  12. Sidsidney says

    bman said:
    City might shut up shop though and subject is to a bore draw to be settled by penalties. Especially with no Tevez, and they’ll be terrified of losing. Or do they play again in that case? I can’t remember.

    Losing Tevez is massive

    He’s the only cunt who doesn’t shit himself against us – including the manager. Balotelli won’t of course, he’ll be a threat

    But we should win… we’ll handle the big occasion better, the nerves, the situation etc.

  13. says

    Yep its the time to praise a lot of players -Park, Evra & especially Carrick- but I hope & pray we do not resort to Gibson as a starter.

  14. bman says

    We’ve got to win against Newcastle and Everton, either could be a banana skin given our congested fixture list, but in theory both are extremely winnable. During the same period Arsenal plays Liverpool, Spurs, and Bolton, and I’m sure they’ll drop points in at least one of those matches. So basically if we get 6 points from Newcastle and Everton, we’ll be at least 6 points ahead of the Arse having both played 34 games. Game over time.

  15. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    Out of curiosity, what happens to the Blackburn game when/if we reach the FA Cup Final, given that they’re scheduled for the same day?

  16. Subdued Orange says

    With practically our whole squad available, we’ve basically got two players for every position. That’s a terrific situation for us to be in, we can chop and change to ensure every player is sufficiently rested. If we are to win the treble, a lot rests on our physio room remaining as empty as City’s trophy cabinet.

    A lot depends on Arsenal here – if they mess up in the next few fixtures, it takes the pressure off us in the league.

    And it ALMOST sounded like you were praising Park there Ed. I’ve always said that for a player who never gets a run of games to properly build his confidence and get in his groove; he does terrificly well for us.

    The noises from Spain seem to suggest that this Barcelona team is jaded. If they (and United) make the final, after a gruelling 4 classicos – we might just be too much for them if we play at a ferociously high PL tempo.

  17. sukhy5 says

    What a club we follow!!

    How many times have we been involved in a serious push for the treble?

    1999
    2007
    2008
    2009
    2011

    Wow.

  18. sheesh says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I agree, but having said that… it’s bloody exciting, innit?

    Beginning of the season, who would have thought, eh?

    To be fair, Alf, I thought we’d thrown the title away at Wolves. We still might (although it’s looking less likely as the weeks pass) but I never thought I’d see us play so well as we have been of late.

    If we carry on like this, well, let’s see where that takes us. Momentum is everything.

  19. bman says

    It’s looking like yet another season where all the pundits slated United’s chances in August, talking about us coming 3rd or 4th, and instead we’re right up there. That’s happened practically every season for the past few years. When are they going to realise that (A) Fergie has a winning mentality, unlike their precious Arsene, and transmit that to his players, and (B) our players are actually a good bit better than they are given credit for.

  20. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    bman said:
    It’s looking like yet another season where all the pundits slated United’s chances in August, talking about us coming 3rd or 4th, and instead we’re right up there. That’s happened practically every season for the past few years. When are they going to realise that (A) Fergie has a winning mentality, unlike their precious Arsene, and transmit that to his players, and (B) our players are actually a good bit better than they are given credit for.

    Dunno about Arsenal, seemed like everyone was tipping Chelsea for the title back in August, and after the first couple of games they probably thought they were nailed on!

  21. Ted says

    Why most are cacking themsen’s about the fuckin bitter pricks is beyond me.

    They’re so fuckin reliant on Tevez its unreal and he’s fuck’t.

    Its got 4-0 written all over it. I’ll swallow my own jizz if its any less.

    I said my own Alf!

  22. ltel says

    Spudiator said:
    Dunno about Arsenal, seemed like everyone was tipping Chelsea for the title back in August, and after the first couple of games they probably thought they were nailed on!

    after the first 6 games i thought they were nailed on too.. every week 6-0

  23. says

    I think the moment the title tide turned was when Chelsea sacked Ray Wilkins.

    He was could hold the dressing room together as a go between the players and the manager. He was a sounding board for both, and psychology is so important in sport, sometimes more than good coaching.

    It reminds me of when Chelsea pushed Jose out and United won the next 3 league titles in a row. Fergie thrives on other teams ruining it for themselves whilst United keep it solid and consistent.

  24. ltel says

    ive been looking and asking about for champions league final tickets and have been told to expect to pay between 1500 and 2k, this is a disgrace. take out a bank loan to go to london for a night

  25. says

    All this talk of a treble is WAY too premature when we’ve got a huge game against the Massive Bitter Citeh on Saturday. It is crucial that we get all over Citeh from the start tomorrow, smash them early and have them shit themselves at the occasion. We shouldn’t underestimate them at all and should look to utterly crush them.

  26. ltel says

    Ted said:
    Why most are cacking themsen’s about the fuckin bitter pricks is beyond me.

    They’re so fuckin reliant on Tevez its unreal and he’s fuck’t.

    Its got 4-0 written all over it. I’ll swallow my own jizz if its any less.

    I said my own Alf!

    bollocks, they havea talented squad. better than liverools who ran us raggedlast game it will be tough,

  27. Ted says

    ltel said:
    bollocks, they havea talented squad.

    That talented squad just had them torn a new one by the Dippers, who are dogshit!

    They got fucked in the euro disney cup by Kiev who got fucked off by an ale house team from Portugal last night.

    Are you from the same stable as Cal and Dozey?

  28. says

    I think the key thing is to not take anything for granted, and just help support the team as best we can to urge them onwards. Schalke, Citeh, are both beatable but we need to get into them and really dominate.

  29. ltel says

    just remembered there that when the great dane decide to retire we won the treble, now VDS is retiring and we are in the same position.

  30. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    Good point Itel, there’s plenty you could look at if you’re looking for omens, like that we lost only 3 league games all season in 98/99 (as we have so far this season), also that we were knocked out of the league cup in the quarter-finals by a London team, we were unbeaten in Europe all season, and we were competing with Arsenal and Chelsea for the title, with the latter falling away towards the end, one of which won the double the season before (Arsenal in 97/98, Chelsea last season). If you look hard enough, you can find those kind of similarities virtually anywhere, but they’re really just coincidences. Having said that, though, it would be a fitting farewell for van der Sar to retire having won everything there is to win (especially the FA Cup, which is the one thing he, and Rooney for that matter, hasn’t won).

  31. han says

    Ted said:
    Why most are cacking themsen’s about the fuckin bitter pricks is beyond me.

    They’re so fuckin reliant on Tevez its unreal and he’s fuck’t.

    Its got 4-0 written all over it. I’ll swallow my own jizz if its any less.

    I said my own Alf!

    so if united win 3-0 i’ll expect something posted on u tube tommorow evening…

  32. squigels says

    ltel said:
    ive been looking and asking about for champions league final tickets and have been told to expect to pay between 1500 and 2k, this is a disgrace. take out a bank loan to go to london for a night

    If you really want to go, you won’t be paying that much anyway not in a million years.

  33. says

    Spud, in ’98/99 we lost SIX league games. I really don’t care about the TREBLE. Not a jot. I just want that league title; anything else will be a big big bonus.

    Kramer, Schalke won’t do us. We will be fine. They are content being in the semis to be honest with you.

  34. says

    I am not underestimating them Spike. They are good and they have to be in the Champions League semis. However, they are over achieving currently.

    I just want that 19th PL title. Everything else is a bonus.

  35. ltel says

    squigels said:
    If you really want to go, you won’t be paying that much anyway not in a million years.

    ill be ovr no doubt. ticket or no ticket

  36. Ted says

    We should’nt under estimate them. Our record against the fritz is fuckin awful.

    Munich last season. Leverkusen 2002 and Dortmund 97′ And two of them was 2nd leg at O.T. and they still jibbed is off.

  37. Ted says

    han said:
    so if united win 3-0 i’ll expect something posted on u tube tommorow evening…

    Are you quereing my integrity Han or is it a specific request?

  38. squigels says

    Did we lose six in the year of 98? we went unbeaten through a lot the year of 99, but I think thats what your referring to.

  39. bman says

    Spudiator said:
    Sorry Cal, but you are spectacularly wrong.

    Yeah, but we’re actually doing a little bit better this season in the league than 98-99. It even looks like our goals scored/goals conceded numbers will be really close to that season’s.

  40. Spike says

    Schalke on a good day can rip us a new one (and Barca/Real/Munich) lets just hope they play average and maybe a bit overawed when they come to OT, in Gelsenkirchen they will have 90% savage fanatical Schalke fans at their back ( the other 10% will be the prawn sandwich arsekissinbrigade), it won’t be a Walz down the Isle as some here predict.

  41. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    I’m not underestimating Shalke by any means, you can never, ever underestimate Champions League teams when you’re at the knockout stage, irrespective of standings. After all, we’ve seen great United teams knocked out by seemingly lesser teams (Dortmund in ’97, Monaco in ’98, Leverkusen in ’02 and Porto in ’04 all immediately spring to mind), I’m sure that’ll be on Fergie’s mind and I’d expect him to take nothing for granted, even if some of the fans do.

  42. Spike says

    What I’ve just seen from Barca-Real, any one of those two will arse rape our midfield to Kingdom come and back, if we get past Schalke.

  43. sheesh says

    Now that this fuss about a possible treble is over, perhaps we can now refocus our minds on taking each game as it comes rather than looking too far ahead.
    It is imperative that we get this defeat out of our system by beating the Geordies. St James’s Park won’t be an easy place to go to.
    Anderson must start alongside Fletcher (assuming the latter is able to play), Giggs and possibly Nani. Hernandez must start alongside Rooney IMO.

  44. Spike says

    second
    if we get to the CL final, I’ll enjoy the hype here in this forum…but a gangbang from Barca or Madrid is on.

  45. says

    League win no 19 and a CL final place will do me. Definitely better than expected.

    Next two games massive – if we win those 2 we are pretty much home and dry – will only need a point out of the two big games vs Chel & Arse. Bburn and Bpool last two should be an easy 6 points. Those two sides are playing like league 1 sides at the moment.

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