Jon Dunham – Moyes’ United may just step it up now

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

While my main focus is usually on what is happening on the local sporting scene, it is impossible not to get drawn into what looks like being one of the most intriguing Barclays Premier League seasons for sometime.

As many of you will know, I follow the fortunes of my beloved Norwich City with perhaps too much passion and I was more than happy to have my trap firmly shut last weekend when they went from being relegation certainties at half-time of their game against West Ham United to being the best team in the world again with a fine second-half showing.

But it is the top of the Premier League that is proving to be most interesting. For the first time in a long time not only is it hard to pick a winner but there are more than one or two teams who look like being the final shake-up.

And if I was a fan of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea, I would be slightly concerned about the current form and most recent result picked up by defending champions Manchester United.

It was always going to be a fascinating season for the many who follow them, given that David Moyes was stepping into the very big shoes left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson.

And while there have been plenty of rocky moments so far, the victory over Arsenal was a sure sign that things are beginning to come good.

I was lucky enough to go to Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago to see United destroy the Canaries in the Capital One Cup and, although it was a mixed bunch that evening, they looked a world away from the Canaries.

For Moyes, it is a matter of not only finding his best team but also putting his own stamp on that line-up and the ruggedness with which they saw out the game against the Gunners was an example of him finally getting to grips with the job.

He did a fine job at Everton and that was, in general, down to digging out results. Not always pretty but does anyone really care about that if results are being produced?

But the other thing to be wary of with United is the mental toughness that must surely exist within the squad. The fact that in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie they have two of the best players in the league will also help by the way!

But even though Ferguson has gone, the lasting impression he made on the club must still be there.

That ability to win games when they may not deserve it and the determination to go right to the wire even when the task seems impossible. They were the hallmarks of Ferguson’s reign and even though he is gone, you would like to think that the players will retain the attitude that was no doubt rammed into them.

The win over Arsenal was much-needed if you are of a United persuasion and don’t be surprised if they kick-on from here.

The Gunners were found wanting in certain areas at Old Trafford. There is no doubt they have players of serious ability but, in Premier League terms at least, their squad looks slightly thin.

They can be contenders for the crown but, assuming they are still in the shake-up at the turn of the year (which they will be), they will need to spend on a striker and a defender or two.

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho will be there or thereabouts simply because he knows how to get the job done (I think he is brilliant by the way) and Manchester City would be the champions if the season only involved playing home matches.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. City, man for man, probably have the best squad of the lot. But until their mentality about playing on the road changes, another title won’t be forthcoming.

The ones who I think could make a real, and slightly surprising, tilt for the title are Liverpool.

Brendan Rodgers is a high-class coach and from the numerous times I have seen them from the comfort of my armchair this season, they are playing some excellent football and, most importantly, picking up results.

The big question mark for Liverpool would be their ability to win the ‘big matches’. They had the chance to really stamp their mark on it at Arsenal a couple of weeks ago and failed miserably.

But in Luis Suarez and the sorely underrated before now Daniel Sturridge, they have the firepower and in Steven Gerrard, they have a complete midfield player who has shown he can adapt his game despite his legs perhaps not being able to carry him as quickly as they once did.

Plenty of people have lost faith with football in the upper echelons of the game and, to a certain extent, I can understand why.

But a thrilling title race and seem decent football along the way certainly helps overcome the continued ridiculous amount of money that gets thrown about.

Hopefully all the clubs at the top, including the so-far brilliant Southampton, will last the pace and ensure it goes down to the wire.