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Nothing’s gonna stop United … just look at the fixture list
My colleague Patrick Johnston has been wondering aloud about the effect a 4-1 defeat by Liverpool is going to have on Manchester United. He’s in good company, because Guus Hiddink also believes the door is open a little bit.
The match must have been enjoyable for Liverpool fans but it’s not going to have an effect on the title race.
The fact that Liverpool have done the double on United, and Chelsea, this season will be lost in United’s celebrations of an 18th English league title, equalling Liverpool’s record.
Hiddink has been around too long to really believe that United will suddenly go off the rails over one bad result. The truth is United still hold a four-point lead with 10 games remaining, one more fixture than Chelsea and Liverpool.
United have performed relatively poorly against other so-called top four clubs this season but of their remaining fixtures only one match is against any of those side, a home clash with Arsenal on the penultimate week of the season when the title could already be in their pocket.
They also have home games against fading Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City while away they travel to Sunderland, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic and Hull City, hardly fixtures that will be keeping Alex Ferguson awake at night.
Were it an inexperienced squad, perhaps new to the pressure of handling a title run-in, their would be ground for optimism at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
But in the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Edwin van der Sar, John O’Shea and Patrice Evra they have seasoned professionals who have seen it all before and will not be hitting the panic button.
The one worry for Ferguson could have been the distraction of the Champions League but Liverpool and Chelsea are also through to the last eight and will be equally stretched.
The biggest question now is not so much whether United will implode in the league, but whether anybody can stop them winning all five trophies they set out for at the start of the season.
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo (R) argue with referee Alan Wiley after Vidic was shown the red card during their Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford, March 14, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble