MANCHESTER, January 23 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes that a points total as low as 82 could be enough to win the Premier League this season.
United have already lost eight games in all competitions this season, and, unusually had slipped to five Premier League defeats before the turn of the year.
Chelsea, who have suffered four Premier League defeats, have also passed up the chance to take hold of the title race, with Arsenal, who were written off in the early part of the campaign, leading the table ahead of United’s game against Hull.
Ferguson’s side have picked up seven points from their last three matches but had 40 points at the half-way stage in the campaign.
The United manager, who is looking for a record fourth straight Premier League trophy, thinks that any team that puts a run of form together will take the title.
A tally of 82 points has not been enough to win the league since United won the Premier League with just 80 points in 2000.
Last season United pipped Liverpool by four points with a final total of 90 and picked up 89 and 87 in 2007 and 2008.
Chelsea’s two title victories saw them gain 95 and 91 points respectively in 2004 and 2005.
But Ferguson thinks that there will be nothing like that this time around. "The title race is looking more complicated this season. I think it’s going to be the lowest points total to win the title for a while," he said.
"Maybe 82 will do it, whereas we won it with 90 last season. It’s going to be a tough race.
"What’s made it that way is the number of teams who are challenging to get into the top four.
"And, of course Arsenal’s consistency in the past few weeks has made it a three-way fight at the top.
"They are winning games now and that underlines what I’ve been saying about the need for consistency of results.
"That’s what will give any of the front-runners a chance this season.
"When they lost to Chelsea at the end of November, even Arsenal themselves admitted it was going to be difficult for them. They were well beaten that day.
"But teams dropping points and Arsenal hitting a good run has put them back on top and they will feel they are in with a great chance."
United face Arsene Wenger’s side next Sunday and the Gunners face Chelsea the week after.
It is a crucial period of the campaign and United have regularly put together a consistent run at this stage of the season to win titles and Ferguson thinks it could be a defining period.
"They’ve got us next Sunday and then they have to go to Chelsea the following week so, it’s going to be interesting," said Ferguson.
"I think that we’re now only two points adrift of where we were this time last season."
Ferguson admits he is considering a prominent role for new signing Mame Diouf in the coming weeks.
The Senegalese striker, 23, who joined from Molde earlier this month, has come off the bench three times for United and scored in the 3-0 win over Burnley last week.
"The boy’s (Diouf) done very well," said Ferguson.
"He’s showed a real sharpness in front of goal and it’s good to be able to bring someone in at this time of the season. He can be a winner for us.
"His temperament looks good. When young players come and respond instantly to our training then you are encouraged. I hope he’s made for the big stage. No one’s doubting his temperament, that’s for sure.
"There are some big challenges in big games coming up. I may start him and that will be the big test for him."