Are Manchester United in the title race?
I am very much no, but it probably depends on your definitions
The headlines like the ones above feel predictable as soon as Manchester United start having any success. It makes sense, especially from the media and TV partners. Manchester United are a substantial historical brand, with a massive fan base, and when they are good they bring interest and eyeballs.
The match against Arsenal (before some of the title talk really got going) was the most-watched Premier League match ever in the United States. Having a good Manchester United is good for the BRAND of the Premier League, (I would argue it is similar but maybe slightly less so with Arsenal and Liverpool).
So why we are seeing this discussion makes sense, but are Manchester United really in the title race?
After this weekend’s matches, my model is still very skeptical of them as in the title race. The betting odds are slightly more optimistic putting them in the 6% range but it is still very much a long shot at this time.
I think there are a couple of things happening here, the first is that is possible that they could catch Manchester City, they are just 2 points behind (having played a game extra). They could catch Arsenal, they are just 5 points behind (having played two games extra). Manchester City can catch Arsenal (this is basically 50/50), therefore Manchester United are also in this.
The above is true, there are decent chances that Manchester United catches either team (catching one team and finishing second is probably in 5-20% range right now), it is just significantly less likely that they can catch BOTH teams.
The reason for that is that they are still a team that the track record of them being very good is short.
For the season they have been only the 6th best team, if you weigh more heavily the current matches that moves them up to 4th best.
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