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Can anything now stop United?
It’s been a great week for Alex Ferguson (as long as you ignore the League Cup).
You couldn’t pick up a British newspaper over the weekend without reading the dreaded phrase “mind games”, after Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez made his carefully prepared “outburst” about his opposite number at Old Trafford.
The results over the weekend were then firmly in United’s favour, as they took advantage of Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Stoke by beating Chelsea 3-0.
So United did indeed deal a psychological blow, and a much more powerful one than in the “row” with Benitez. After a match in which they made Chelsea look very ordinary indeed, a glance at the table now shows United within striking distance of league leaders Liverpool: five points behind, but with two games in hand. If that isn’t preying on the minds of Benitez, Gerrard and co I’d be surprised.
But let’s not be too hasty in handing the league championship to United.
The result was a great one on Sunday, but in a season during which standards have apparently slipped, this title race can still be won by whichever team puts together the sort of devastating run-in Liverpool used to be famous for in the days when they actually won the league, and Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all managed more recently.
United are the only ones looking capable of that sort of form at the minute, with 16 points acquired from their last six games. If Liverpool, Chelsea or anyone else are to stop them they will have to find the same sort of momentum. Can they do it? It doesn’t look likely, but perhaps with some inspiration from the transfer market?
Incidentally, the only team currently matching United’s pace are … Aston Villa. Could they yet have a say in all this?
PHOTO: Rooney celebrates after scoring against Chelsea, Jan. 11, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples