MANCHESTER, March 15 — Premier League leaders Manchester United will go four points clear if they beat second-from-bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux this weekend but need only look back a year to know that is not as easy as it sounds.
In February 2011, then bottom club Wolves ended United’s 29-match unbeaten league run, inflicting a first league defeat of the season on the eventual champions when they stunned their visitors 2-1 in this fixture.
Wolves, again embroiled in a battle to avoid relegation after just one win in their last 14 league games, fell behind to an early Nani goal but replied with two goals before halftime which led manager Alex Ferguson to bemoan his side’s “bad play at set-pieces”.
With Manchester City, the long-time leaders before their rivals overhauled them last week, not playing until Wednesday because opponents Chelsea are among those involved in the FA Cup quarter-finals, United can turn the screw on Sunday.
One of the keys to whether they can retain their title could be striker Wayne Rooney, who has been challenged by Ferguson to net 40 goals this season and who scored twice in December’s 4-1 victory over Wolves at Old Trafford.
Another double in last week’s 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion took his tally to 26, eight fewer than his best ever haul of 34 in 2009-10, and his team mates see his run continuing.
“He can go as far as he wants to,” winger Ashley Young told British media. “He has done brilliantly this season. Hopefully he keeps adding to his tally and we can keep getting the three points.”
City manager Roberto Mancini has said the champions have the mental edge having been involved in so many title battles while his club are seeking a first championship since 1968.
But he has refused to be down and says his team have enough games left to swing things back in their favour, including next month’s mouth-watering Manchester derby.
“Now we can’t cry, now is a time to be strong and keep going because we are a top team,” the Italian, whose team have 66 points from 28 games compared to United’s 67, told a news conference.
“We have 10 games, all is in our hands and we can change if we want. We have pressure because we want to win the title, we want to make history for the club.”
The increasingly interesting tussle for third and fourth places takes a back seat this weekend because of the FA Cup with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, like fellow Londoners Chelsea, not in league action until Wednesday.
At the other end of the table, bottom side Wigan Athletic host West Brom on Saturday, hoping to make the most of the fact fellow relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers are not playing until midweek.
In the weekend’s two other league games, Fulham entertain a Swansea City team who are full of confidence after last weekend’s surprise 1-0 victory over Manchester City and Norwich City travel to sixth-placed Newcastle United. — Reuters