Nick Miller: United are better than Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal but are still average


Nick Miller of football365 describes United as “the best of an average bunch”…

We could be accused of going a little blog crazy over the last couple of days but what with United’s victory and Liverpool’s draw putting the Champions 7 points ahead of the chasing pack, there was bound to be a media backlash.

And so came the first, from’s Nick Miller (,17033,13320_4956614,00.html) , who far from gives kudos to United, derides their achievement by questioning that they are “the best of a simply average bunch”, and says “seriously – this is a debate”.

Well, so far, we’ve been slighted for the myth that we haven’t scored so often. On 46 goals, we’ve scored more than any other team. As such, our defensive record has been referred to as the main reason we are in such a good position. The goals statistics defy this.

Our totally commanding home show this season, despite the number of teams who have come to Old Trafford with the sole aim of making it difficult for us, has been somewhat offset by what (at least a few games ago) seemed a dodgy away record. A record that could be quickly disspelled when recognising we had played all of last season’s top half sides away by Christmas, and were still well within touching distance.

There are plenty more statistics that could be told, however, ask yourself this question. When Liverpool were top a few weeks ago, were they labelled “the best of a simply average bunch”? When Arsenal were leading the pack after their favourable fixture list up until this point last season, were they labelled “the best of a simply average bunch”? And when Chelsea were sweeping all before them with a powerful defensive unit, were they labelled “the best of a simply average bunch”?

No, they weren’t. Arsenal were hailed as the best football side in the country (and, in some quarters, the best football side the country had ever seen), and Chelsea were feared as the most intimidating side of a generation.

I have often scribed my disgust at the way British journalism has failed to truly recognise the feats of Sir Alex’s sides but to belittle the achievements of a side that has lost just twice in twenty six games but are still seven points ahead of a team with only one defeat in that time (and, incidentally, we’re world champions) as “average” winners by ‘default’ is an incredible slight on a team which could potentially go on to have the most successful season in British football history. Yes, the internet does provide a path for the less knowledgable or embittered folk to cast their opinions, but the greater concern is that Sir Alex’s sides of 2007, 2008 and the squad of today will have their achievements belittled by wannabe journalists who think because they have a pathway to a widely viewed platform, that their opinion holds any kind of credence in a proper discussion. Breaking news, pal, you may befriend a bunch of deluded scousers and gooners but in the long run you will hold no water.

You may be forgiven, as I could, that we would be getting some credit for such a fantastic turnaround in such a short space of time.

But then, I was crowing about waiting for credit for a Premier League and Champions League double last season. Little did I know we were doing it with an average side….


16 Comments on Nick Miller: United are better than Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal but are still average

  1. Mate last year Arsenal were not labelled the best of an average bunch because we weren’t until after the Eduardo injury. You’re talking about a favourable fixture set up but we dropped our points to teams like Birmingham and Wigan. Yes we also lost to you and Chelsea away but those were games where we deserved at least a draw, and we did this with 3 great attacking players missing half of the season (Eduardo, Rosicky and Van Persie).

    You’re talking about how his article has no credence but yours is so biased that it just serves to make you look like a hypocrite. He even admitted that you played very well last season, yet you’re sarcastically saying “Little did I know we were doing it with an average sideā€¦.”.

    I don’t agree with what he said either because you have so many points but the way you present your argument is pathetic.

  2. It’s a funny thing – when United had Djemba Djemba and Kleberson about 4 years ago and were winning nothing, nobody criticized United. Now, dominating a Premiership brimming with the world’s top players, on the threshold of the third title on the trot (for a record breaking 2nd time) and Premiership, European and World Champions then out come the mongs and we are suddenly an average side. Arsenal play in pointless pretty patterns and they are “world class”, Chelsea have two titles bought for them and they “dominate”. You rarely see these accolades given to United. Nothing to do with jealously from the London press then?

    Arsenal deserved a draw against United last season? Don’t make me laugh. The only goal they got was because Adebayor cheating and put the ball in with his hand but you won’t hear much about that because he’s not called Ronaldo. The last two games at Arsenal have seen l’Arse get out of jail with matches they should’ve lost – United let them off the hook twice. Oh, and you’re 17 points behind – get a grip.

  3. We ALL view our team through rose tinted glasses.

    Although it pains me to say it you can’t argue with the dominance of Man Utd in English football over the past two decades.

    What we CAN reasonably debate however (at least those of us who are beyond school age and have been around for a few years) is the relative merits of this and previous Man Utd teams compared with the title winning sides of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool (yes football did exist before SKY). One must include Liverpool because they are the most successful team in the history of English football, despite the fact it has taken Man Utd the last twenty years to catch up.

    Whilst it is true to say that some of the Utd teams over the past twenty years have been very good it is equally true to say that some have been decidedly average (although still better than the rest in England). This is well evidenced by the failure of Man Utd to reproduce their domestic dominance in Europe. It’s easy to get carried away with the SKY propaganda that the EPL is the strongest league in the world and always has been blah, blah. It is equally obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that many of Utds performances this season have been very poor by their standards. I suspect that privately Ferguson would agree. They have been assisted by the mediocrity of their closest rivals. Liverpool should be a lot closer by virtue of the fact that they have done well against the top four rivals and have largely dominated against most of the teams against whom they have drawn. Their failure to convert dominance into victory has demonstrated that they are not yet good enough to win the title.

  4. Wow, provoked quite the reaction there.

    Wal – Try and qualify this. Who do you support, why do you think a team who are the current domestic, European and World Champions, who have a 7 point lead and have just broken the British defensive record in over-seeing a 17 point swing at the top can be described as average?

    Manpoo – imaginative name. I’m guessing the same can be said of our previous 17 title winning campaigns?

    Fabregas’ Dad – at least your comment is thought out and reasoned – but with all due respect, the comment wasn’t made because I thought Arsenal were distinctly average. However to call my argument “biased” and “pathetic” when you have quoted the remarkably flimsy argument of Eduardo’s injury as a collapse isn’t really a strong opening stand. With 4 goals from 17 games he was hardly the prolific scorer or the significant performer that he was made out to be. The fact was that the team were punching well above their weight and this season they were found out well before they were hit with injuries. In fact, ironically enough, your best spell has been since Fabregas and Walcott got injured. The Birmingham game was exactly this time last year and the Wigan game was well after this point. I did say that the fixture list had been favourable to that point. It does work out for all teams in the end but can provide an unrealistic picture upto a certain point.

    United have had injuries too. Ronaldo, Rooney, Hargreaves, Carrick, Scholes, Anderson, Neville, to name but a few, plenty of players who have missed sizeable chunks of the last 2 seasons. And at the end of the 2007 season, plenty of defenders missing from the run in, arguably costing us a chance at the European Cup. Still, we don’t look back and blame it on the injuries and say the better team didn’t win. A quick look through your history of football will show that it’s generally when United win a trophy they get declared undeserved winners, that some excuse is made for their success, anything that detracts from their achievement.

    You can blame an injury to a squad player for your team simply not being as good as United, but it doesn’t cut the mustard this season, and isn’t really a compelling argument considering in 1998 United had between 5 and 6 first teamers out during the run in, in 2002 several key players again were out at key times, and in 2004 the suspension to Rio Ferdinand was probably the pivotal moment. I am in no way using this as an excuse, what I am doing is showing you that the United argument is far stronger than the Arsenal argument.

    The more perfect example perhaps is just 3 years ago, in 2006. Alan Smith’s leg break was just as, if not more, severe as Eduardo’s, and the after treatment in which the ambulance was pushed and attacked by Liverpool fans was despicable. However this wasn’t used as an excuse for failure, but more a motivation for success. We may not have won the league but it wasn’t used as an excuse to paper over the cracks.

    What have I said that makes me look a hypocrite? We have scored the most goals, have the best defensive record, have won the three key trophies over the last 12 months to surely give us right to the accolades, we’re seven points clear, have lost only 2 league games all season (and only 4 in 44 games in all competitions, scoring 82 goals in the process) and suddenly this daylight gap we have earned has invited all of the ABU’s out of the woodwork. In Miller’s article he seems to indicate that we’ve been average despite all of the figures indicating otherwise. We’ve scored 3 or more 6 times in the league and kept a remarkable amount of clean sheets.

    When you consider the amount of times that teams have come to Old Trafford refusing to even try to attack (something I would have thought an Arsenal fan would be more than aware of) then I would have thought that having enough in the tank to break through at crucial stages was a quality that should be commended. Instead, teams are commended for coming to Old Trafford and fighting for their lives (as well they should, you won’t find a single comment from me throughout my blogs that says otherwise), while you get the likes of your own manager bemoaning the fact that teams won’t roll over and get pulverised for them. Wake up, Wenger, Derby were very Autumn 2007, not every team will allow it.

    If you could provide anything that could back up my supposed hypocrisy that doesn’t reflect your bitterness at your own side’s clear lack of quality then I would be keen to hear it.

    I can accept any fault in my reasoning but attacking it with accusations of hypocrisy when your own comment is laced with it is unfair and not worthwhile to the debate.

  5. Quite crap article, sorry to say. Nobody has labelled Man U the best of an average bunch. They are the only team playing to their potential. Liverpool as usual are draw specialists. Chelsea’s owner seems to be meddling and screwing around with the overpaid bunch of mercenaries, to their detriment. Arsenal are paying the price for too much youth, and too much emphasis on beautiful football. Only Man U are playing like champions and Fergie is getting all the credit he deserves.
    For you to come up with this “everybody is against us” bullshit when United are flying high is so stupid. The only team who topped the league and still got stick was Liverpool simply because although they were leading the league, they were not convincing in their performances. Get yourself a life buddy write something more meaningful next time.

  6. Yolkie mate, you are spot on.

    If we have had a quarter of the luck the scousers had, especialy at the beggining of the season (matches against us, Middlesborough, Hull and Pompey, to name a few), the league would have truly been over by now.

    And for someone to claim that we are top of the league because the dippers blew it, it is more than pathetic.

  7. Yolkie – without Ronaldo, Man Utd suffer badly and can you please tell me out of the players, how many were out at once? Neville is no good anymore, Hargreaves is pretty average and already had a bad injury record before you signed him, Anderson is not that good and Rooney tends to be inconsistent. Eduardo was not only scoring but making assists and decoy runs that could open up defences while nothing needs to be said about Rosicky and van Persie (important to our attacking and counter attacking style of play). It is the same with Ronaldo this season as he is not anywhere near as good this season goal-wise, however, he has provided 20+ crucial and excellent assists.

    I do not have any problem with Man Utd (I like their footballing style and respect their record) but stop being biased – I can openly admit Man Utd have been much better. Arsenal have had to manage without Eduardo, Rosicky, Walcott and Fabregas at the same time for at least two months. Are you trying to tell me without Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo and Scholes that you would still be at the top. Like I said I have no problem with Man Utd, however, I want an honest response especially as I am not one of those fans that make biased comments against rival teams.

  8. …Including Tottenham which is another team I have some respect for looking at their footballing style (although it is difficult with their silly comments and sickening obsession with Arsenal – even if they were relegated, they would not care as long as they beat Arsenal).

  9. Some good discussion going on, although Amit – I totally disagree with your comments regarding the quality of the article, at the end of the day certain articles get the old emotions going and Yolkie has done a great job in presenting his argument across.

    You will find fans within this country that think their club isn’t truely appreciated for their achievements – it is a natural occurrence. One of the main examples I can think of is the fact that some Liverpool fans believe that Ferguson’s achievements (being that he is a Knight of the Realm) have been over hyped considering Paisley won three European Cups:

    At the end of the day – I think this United side are top class. We have some of the best players in the world at our club and we have the best manager in the world at our club. Statistics don’t lie and the fact that Ferguson has evolved with the continuing demands of modern day football – his achievements can never be understated.

    With the other sides:

    Liverpool – I just don’t think they’re good enough. Didn’t think at the start and recent results prove that.

    Chelsea – Fergie said they were an aging team, which wound everyone up – but he had a point. Were awful in the big games under Scolari but to be honest, they should never have got rid of Mourinho.

    Arsenal – Again, I just don’t feel that have the strength in depth to compete till the end of the season. We can look at injuries to Fabregas and Walcott, however both were available when Arsenal lost to Fulham, Hull and Stoke City (I know Walcott was injured in that game). Wenger is a great manager and I think it is a joke when I hear on talksport people calling for his head, but currently his failure to draft in a ball winning midfield and a genuine top class goalkeeper is a major problem – I don’t accept that injuries are the sole reason for Arsenal poor season.

    United went 13 games without conceding a goal – I can’t for the life of me see how that can be a mark of an average side? That is a ridiculously long time not to concede.

    I think there are some good comments in here but also a lot of biased ones. Ferguson has built yet another great side and based upon some of these comments, Yolkie’s point has been shown.

  10. I think the point is, is that the second placed team has proved to be average. Man Utd seem to just turn up, win dirty, on many occasions (which Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal would love to do) and find themselves 7 points clear.

    This season has not lit up, simply because the competition is not there. Why? Becuase Man Utd have been clinical in their victories and the stingiest ever in their backline. I’m a liverpool fan and i agree with the comments made by Stretty. Why are we underwhelmed this year, is it because of the credit crunch? Chelsea’s new managers and Man Utd seeing them off easily? Is it because there is no real superstar this year – Love him or loathe him, Ronaldo is good for the game? Is it because of the millions spent by Man City, and proving that some can’t buy success?

    I feel it is the lack of competition, and that is down to Man Utd winning where their closest rivals have tame, non-descript home draws.

  11. Sam – United have lost to both Arsenal and Liverpool this season indicating that the competition is there. Both Liverpool and Arsenal do not have the strength in depth to compete within all four tournaments, whereas United do. Chelsea’s, apparent, lack of physical training was a factor in their lackluster performances – something which United have no control over.

    United are in all four competitions and in the league are seven points clear having played all of the top five away from home – nothing average in that.

  12. Stretty you nutter. I was agreeing with.

    My point, if you take your blinkers off for two seconds and read my comment, states that Man Utd can win dirty. Liverpool can’t. As a liverpool fan i don’t see real quality and domination oozing out of the side – nor have i for years. Chelsea and Arsenal have also lost or drawn games when they were 1-5 favourites with the bookies this year. Liverpool have gained more points in the round robin of the “big four”, but then draw at home to the likes of Stoke and City. Teams go to Anfield (and now Stamoford bridge and the Emirates) knowing they are in with a chance. I feel teams go to Old Trafford and think, it’s alright to lose that one. And before you jump back on your keyboard – that is a compliment to the aura of Man Utd.

    Anyway i have work to do

  13. Amit –

    I’ll have to take umbrage with that comment, mate. My article is in direct response to a piece labelling United the best of an average bunch.

    I’m simply pointing out why that is an unfair comment, I don’t see where I’ve come up with any “everybody is against us” style arguments.

    Arsenal Forever 2004 –

    Of course without Ronaldo United would suffer, he’s arguably the best player in the world. Remove the best player from any team and they would suffer.

    Football is nothing if not about opinion but I have to disagree on your comments regarding Hargreaves, Anderson and Rooney. Hargreaves is probably the most cultured English midfielder (which perhaps is not saying much considering his peers) but you can’t argue with his fantastic displays in last season’s Champions League run. He was the kind of player who Fergie bought to make the difference and did.

    Anderson, well, in terms of career progression and achievements he is far ahead of even Fabregas – the only thing he hasn’t had is a full season to show his capabilities, and even if he wasn’t at United, anyone can see that Anderson has all the talent in the world. To say anything otherwise is showing a little bias.

    Rooney has 14 goals and 5 assists in 31 starts, but importantly, a stop start season again with injury. About a goal every 2 games – that’s consistent enough for me.

    Neville has been playing pretty well when given the chance, he certainly hasn’t disgraced himself.

    I do fully agree with your comment saying that without Rooney, Giggs and Scholes United would struggle to be top. But to be fair we have been without Hargreaves all season, Anderson in huge chunks, Evra for a while, as well as Ferdinand.

    At the back end of the 2006/7 season we were without Evra, Neville, Ferdinand and or Vidic, and Saha at the same time and we managed to get through a difficult spell to win the league.

    We have had numerous players out at multiple times this season – to run through every fixture would be tiresome, but the point is, I wouldn’t and have never used it as an excuse. To use your opinion that our absent players are “not that good” is of course your right, but likewise I could say that Rosicky is not on the same level of Hargreaves or Anderson whereas Walcott is an even lighter-weight and less consistent Nani. Fabregas has not performed well for almost 14 months and his absence has been the making of van Persie.

    However Arsenal had most of their players available at the start of the season and that was when they suffered their bad run, losing against Fulham, Hull, Stoke et al. Ironically you’ve been better since Fabregas got injured.

    One final point (it’s one I’ve made before), and perhaps it bears some relevance to the overall argument. It’s interesting that Ronaldo is being somewhat castigated for his displays when his only apparent crime is that he isn’t as good as he was last season. On 16 goals and 9 assists for a winger, I would call that tremendous form.

    Bored with Poor Journalism –

    You make an interesting point regarding standards, but this is probably in a nutshell my point –

    You say that some of the United teams have been very good but some have been decidedly average, while conceding they’re still better than the rest of England. You have provided the example of European progression to justify that but I must say it’s a little bizarre to use criticize the team because you are of the opinion that it isn’t as good as a past team for the same club.

    As I said above, Ronaldo’s being slated for his form because he hasn’t scored as many as last season. However to call he and United average for their form this season is a) not really fair and b) doing a great disservice to the achievements of last season. If this season is average, was last season’s performance the acceptable benchmark? Surely not, it was one of the most successful season’s by any British club of all time.

    If United were to go on to win the lot (no, I’m not suggesting they will), would they still be average?

    Indeed, what do they have to do to stop such accusations? I suspect winning every game until the end of the season would still not be good enough.

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