Something very, very fishy is going on (and I don’t mean David Platt’s increasing resemblance to a grouper).
In a season which promised to be the most competitive in recent memory, the top clubs seem locked in a battle to NOT win the Premier League.
It didn’t start out this way.
Chelsea began the campaign exactly as they finished last year, slipping into their rhythm as smoothly as a well-soaped mobile phone slips into Ashley’s, er, back pocket.
United embarked on an unbeaten run that, although unspectacular, had some mug pundits talking about them challenging the record of the mighty Invincibles.
Manchester City unveiled a gazillion pounds worth of human bling.
And even the Tiny Totts were rattling a few doors and windows after accidentally discovering that their non-scoring, under-performing, unwanted left back was actually the very best player in the world ever, honest.
And then the contest to NOT be champions kicked in.
Chelsea started mislaying points like a blind darts player; United were about as successful on the road as a hedgehog with no legs; Citeh were stymied by their ultra-cautious Italian manager parking the bus for tough games like Wigan at home; and the Spuds found that their new hero Bale was less of interest to Real Madrid than to anthropologists searching for the missing link.
The only consistent team were Arsenal, who were, to use the cliché, consistent in their inconsistency.
It’s at times like this that you can rely on a manager and a team who have done it many times before to take the thing by the scruff of the neck. And, sure enough, for a while, the claret-conked Caledonian and his boys looked like they were going to claim the title without any serious challenge.
But that’s when the weirdness started happening.
Arsenal, having slowly and oh-so painfully emerged as the most likely challenger, started to shoot themselves in the foot.
First, away at Newcastle United, we romped to a four-nil half time lead… then collapsed in the second half to draw four-all. Fans, players and manager were all on the floor, while the media hyenas played tug of war with our corpse. You couldn’t imagine what it would take to lift everyone up again.
We needed a knight in shining armour and, that very same weekend, along he came. Sir Alex of Sozzle duly managed to engineer a first defeat of the season for his team, against bottom placed Wolves no less.
What had seemed a disastrous, dispiriting two points dropped for Arsenal suddenly became one point gained in the race to catch United.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. Arsenal are on a good run and morale is high. Even better, the first trophy for nearly six years is surely just a formality: turn up at Wembley, batter the Brummies and the Carling Cup will be ours, right?
Well, we all know what happened.
Fans, players and manager were all on the floor, the media hyenas etc etc.
Then, within a couple of days, along comes our kind knight again, allowing his team to lose to Chelsea. Three more points in the title race gone awry and just the pick-me-up Arsenal needed.
And now we arrive at the weekend just passed. Arsenal have a great chance to put pressure on United by beating Sunderland at home. Through a combination of inept officiating, obdurate Sunderland defending and wayward finishing the game ends goalless. When we could have stepped on United’s throat, we stepped, instead, into some doggy doo-doo.
Fans, players, manager are all on the floor etc etc.
But, astonishingly, for the third time our knight in shining armour comes to the rescue, taking United on the short trip to Liverpool and having them wilt like limp lettuce against their old enemies.
Once again, two points seemingly dropped in the pursuit of United has turned into one point gained.
For United to be so kind to us once – and with such perfect timing – may be coincidence; to do it twice is remarkable; to do it three times is downright suspicious.
I can think of only one possible explanation: that wily old Scot has had the biggest bet of his life – he’s placed a fortune on Arsenal to win the league this year.