Surely – surely – 2020 is the year that their 30-year wait for a title comes to an end. With a 13-point lead over second and a game in hand, it only appears a matter of time before they get that first title of the Premier League era.
They’re still unbeaten in the league with 19 wins and one draw from 20 games. They’re out of the League Cup but have the FA Cup and Champions League knockouts to come. How do the Premier League’s most iconic teams compare at the same stage?
Remarkably for arguably English football’s most revered side, by the new year point they’d won fewer than half of their Premier League games, nine of 20. They’d lost to Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and 3-0 away to Arsenal and were out of the League Cup with a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham.
However, while they dropped 24 more points than Liverpool currently have after 20 games, they did what all great teams do and came good when it really mattered.
Third and four points behind surprise leaders Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, they raced to the title going unbeaten after Christmas with 13 wins and five draws in the league.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, they did that while navigating tough runs to their FA Cup (Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle) and Champions League (Inter, Juventus, Bayern) triumphs.
Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League record of the 2003-04 season is rightly regarded as a legendary feat, but it was only once they’d managed it that became clear what a side they were. They drew seven of their opening 20 games and went into the New Year three points behind Manchester United in the table.
But they went into a new gear in January, effectively wrapping up the title by going on a nine-game winning streak before holding United to a 1-1 draw at Highbury in March 2004. They ended up drawing five of their final nine games as the nerves set in and they closed in on making history.
It wasn’t long before Mourinho lived up to his own hype as a “Special One” as it quickly became clearly he was leading the Blues to their first Premier League title in the 2004-05 season.
A 1-0 loss at Manchester City in October, courtesy of a Nicolas Anelka penalty, would be their only league defeat that season. They’d drawn four and lost one game by the halfway point and would crank up another gear after Christmas, winning 14 of their final 18 games on their way to a then-record 95 point tally.
Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool would narrowly defeat them 1-0 over the two legs of the Champions League semis and they went out of the FA Cup following a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle, but they did lift the League Cup with a 3-2 win over Liverpool, clinched by Mateja Kezman’s extra-time winner.
After some fallow years in the mid-noughties, left in the wake of Wenger’s Invincibles and falling behind Mourinho’s Chelsea juggernaut, Alex Ferguson built a truly great side to come roaring back to the top. It was probably their last.
With Cristiano Ronaldo first hitting the kind of form he’s now associated with, scoring 31 league goals with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez also chipping in, they pipped Chelsea to both the Premier League and Champions League, registering 89 points and coming out on top after that rainy penalty shootout in Moscow.
This was the second of three consecutive league titles and they’d make it to the Champions League final twice more in the following three years.
It was actually quite a slow start to that middle season, though. Lacklustre draws with Reading and Portsmouth were followed by a 1-0 defeat in the Manchester derby. They soon turned things around with 14 wins from the next 17, but still sat second on New Year’s Day with 45 points from 20 games.
Pep Guardiola’s steamrolling Manchester City side that recorded a record 100 point total in the 2017-18 season had the same points tally as Liverpool after 20 games – 19 wins and one draw, having gone on an unprecedented 18-match winning streak from August until New Year’s Eve.
It was simply a procession at the midway point, but Liverpool will be wary of peaking too early in the season as that City side did.
The League Cup would follow, and they’d win 14 of their final 18 league games, but they couldn’t remain unbeaten with defeats to Liverpool and United. They also went out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 defeat to Wigan and the Champions League after being beaten home and away by Jurgen Klopp’s Reds home and away in the quarters.