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04/01/2012 09:42

Papers: Backed by the stats

Richard Tanner writes in the Daily Express

Backed by the stats
Sir Alex Ferguson has always taken a glass half-full view of Manchester United’s fortunes. So it comes as no surprise that, despite a crippling injury list, some wildly fluctuating form, shock early exits from the Champions League and Carling Cup and a disciplinary problem with his star player, Ferguson remains upbeat. “We have had our ups and downs but the first half to the season has been as good as anything I have had in my 25 years in charge,” he said. Had Manchester United beaten Blackburn Rovers, Ferguson would have been spot on. A victory would have given them 48 points from their first 19 games, equalling their best-ever tally that was set in 1993-94. As it is, their 45-point total from the first half of the season has been bettered on only three occasions – that 1993-94 Double-winning campaign which was actually over a 42-game season; 2003-04, when they had 46 points; and 2006-07, when they bagged 47. They also had 45 in 2007-08. Significantly, in all four of those seasons United were top at the 19-game mark and in three of them they went on to take the title. The year they missed out was 2003-04 when even they could not keep pace with Arsenal’s Invincibles and eventually finished third, with Chelsea runners-up. “We have had the stats that say we are five or six points ahead of previous years’ form at this time of the year,” said Ferguson. “You have to say that Manchester City’s form is equal to that. But to have 45 points at this time of year is an enormous total.” Ferguson also takes heart from scoring 49 goals – only once have his team bettered that, with 50 in 1999-2000.

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