Manchester United underscores value of home form in Premier League title chase

As Manchester United produced an efficient victory in what might have been a tricky encounter against Fulham, they continued to look increasingly likely Premier League winners this season. While not the most impressive performance of the season, the Red Devils never looked like dropping points and performed just as potential league winners need to against the weaker teams in the division.

Yesterday’s win against former player Mark Hughes’s Fulham was United’s 15th home victory out of a possible 16 for the 2010-11 league season, meaning Alex Ferguson’s men have dropped a mere two points so far at Old Trafford. The next best is Chelsea who dropped 10 at Stamford Bridge. For many months this season there was genuine uncertainty as to where the Premier League title was heading, but while closest rivals Arsenal and Chelsea have suffered drops in form both home and away, United has bounced back from any stutter on the road with resounding success at Old Trafford. For quite some time they have been the only undefeated side at home.

The next closest in the defeats tally is Tottenham Hostpur, but they have won just eight of the 15 home ties, having scored a little over half of United’s 42 home goals. Of course, Spurs are not one of United’s challengers for the league title, but the three who are – or have been – Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, have a minimum of two home defeats apiece (Arsenal has three) and are all at least four home victories shy of the Red Devils’ 15. Two or three defeats from 15 or 16 games may not seem a lot, but when there is a side with none from 16 it leaves reliance on away form to catch them, making the task that much more difficult.

The team that went on to be crowned champions in the three seasons prior to this one have ended with no more than one defeat in front of their own fans. Last year Chelsea won 16 of 18, while United in 2008-09 was undefeated. Indeed, the only instance in the last eight years of a team winning the Premier League with more than one defeat was United in 2006-07 when they lost just twice. However, they made up for it with an incredible 13 wins from 18 away games, making that season the exception to the rule. It is home form that wins the Premier League, and it is home form that is seeing Sir Alex Ferguson’s men pull away from the teams just below them.

Manchester United’s away record this year is far from impressive, much like the majority of the league hopefuls, but it is their professionalism and clinical edge in the expected home wins such as yesterday that has seen them emerge as the odds-on favourites to claim back the Premier League title from Chelsea. It is now theirs to lose, but 46 points from 48 available at home suggests they are not in the mood for any more slip-ups.

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