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In a disappointing season, Manchester United can look to the past for encouragement

Outclassed by superior opponents in domestic competition, there are echoes of 2006 in this United team - and perhaps hope for the near future.

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

As of the International break Manchester City sit atop the Premier League with a buffer zone of 16 points between them and their closest competitor, Manchester United. Hypothetically United could still win the league, but it would require a miracle.

So let’s discuss hypothetical miracles, just for fun.

United can get a possible 21 points in their remaining 7 games. If they win out they will finish with 89 points. City are already at 81, that means they would have to lose 6 of the remaining 7 games for this miracle to happen, leaving them at 87 points. If City and United finish level at 89, like in 2012, City would win on goal difference, also like in 2012, unless United also close the goal difference gap of 30 goals. Which is another uphill battle entirely.

So, should fans get their hopes up? Of course not.

This isn’t a situation where anything can, and will, happen. What’s done is done, and City have deserved to win the title. It would be hilarious if they collapsed at this stage, but that won’t happen, and United must take what they can get from their remaining 8 (hopefully 9) games.

For 4 seasons now the Premier League title has gone to a team with a sizeable lead coming out of the holiday schedule. United lost the title by the New Year as they failed to keep up with City following the derby loss at Old Trafford in December. What United can do, however, is save themselves the added pain of losing the title to City at the Etihad, and finish the season on a high by placing 2nd and winning the FA Cup. United can also take a note of encouragement from their own history.

This season feels very similar to the 2005-06 season, a season where Chelsea dominated their way to a 2nd consecutive Premier League title that included a 3-0 thrashing of United at Stamford Bridge to clinch it all.

United were led by aging veterans and untamed young talent. They quickly fell behind to Chelsea in the league going into 2006, crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in the group stage, and lost in the FA Cup to eventual champions, and hated rivals, Liverpool. Despite all that United still finished the season winning 11 of their last 14 league games and a League Cup trophy. They fought their way to a 2nd place finish, and set themselves up for a spectacular run of success for the following 3 seasons. The team was full of potential, and they gained the experience to help propel themselves to a higher level of success despite painful failures.

The 2017-18 edition of Manchester United can do the same.

United haven’t finished higher than 4th since 2012-13 when they won the league, and in that time we’ve also seen Arsenal overtake United for the most ever FA Cup titles. This season will not be a loss unless the players and fans let it be. Jose Mourinho has continued to improve the side, and his star signing, Romelu Lukaku, could be on pace for the most prolific debut season United has ever seen. There are silver linings to this season.

The fact that so many view this season as a disappointment is because everyone knows this team is capable of much more. Perhaps more is in the cards, but unfortunately success isn’t the standard again yet. The process is showing, however.