This is the day Sir Alex Ferguson has longed for. Fuelled by vengeance and the sting of dethronement, the stage is set for Manchester United to regain the Premier League sovereignty. From the moment Manchester City swiped the title from under his nose in last seasons final seconds revenge has been their driving force. And City’s surrender at Tottenham on Sunday left the gap at 13 points with five left to play United are only a win away from being crowned for the 20th time in the top-flight and concluding a year-long quest for Ferguson. Truthfully, it has been a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the Red Devils would reclaim the trophy as they’ve led the table for large parts of the campaign but it’s the relentless pursuit, exemplified by their manager, that makes them worthy champions elect.
And ‘elects’ is what they will remain. Of course nothing in the Premier League is set in stone and it would be a great disrespect to Aston Villa to refer to United as champions before a ball has even been kicked at Old Trafford. The Midlands club are on a crusade of their own to avoid dropping into the Championship and Wigan’s loss at West Ham on Saturday has thrown down the gauntlet to Paul Lambert’s and his side. Victory would create a relatively safe six-point buffer above the relegation zone, although a draw would almost certainly be considered a positive result given the opposition, venue and whats at stake.
Ashley Young won’t feature against his former club after an ankle injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Apart from that Manchester United have no fresh injury concerns.
Aston Villa can call on Gabriel Agbonlahor after he shook off a groin problem that forced him to miss the draw with Fulham last time out. Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton (both foot) and Richard Dunne (groin) remain sidelined.
What the managers said…
It’s not beyond the team at all. If you’re asking if Manchester United can win five games in a row, well how many times have we done that? There won’t be any slacking off by the players. That’s good for the fans to debate what our best team is. I get it all the time: what is my best ever team? What may create more awareness of the side we have this year is how many points we get.
‘We won it in 1997 with 75 points and have been second to Chelsea with 85 and City with 89 points last season.” Sir Alex Ferguson wants United to eclipse Chelsea’s 95 point haul from 2005 (Daily Mail)
“In a roundabout way [the party atmosphere] can [help us]. Put it this way I don’t want them to win it against us, because I want us to try and win ourselves. We’re playing well enough, we’re on a good bit of form at the moment and we’re going into a game on Monday where it’s going to be tough and no-one expects anything from us but we’ll certainly go there to try to win it.” Paul Lambert hopes Aston Villa can spoil United’s title party (Independent)
Pre-match Statistic: This is why they’re Champions elect! Manchester United have recovered an astonishing 28 points from losing positions this season – a Premier League high.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Aston Villa