Ferguson eyes historic United title

Manchester United on the brink of becoming the most successful team in English Premier League history.

    Take a bow - Ferguson acknowledges the Old Trafford crowd after United's 2-1 win over Chelsea [GALLO/GETTY]

    Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was in a jubilant mood on Sunday as his side edged closer to a historic 19th English Premier League title.

    United's 2-1 win over defending champions Chelsea left United needing one point from their final two games to secure their record-breaking domestic title.

    Ferguson, who has already led United to 11 EPL titles, hailed United's impending coronation as an 'incredible achievement'.

    "For the last 18 years, Arsenal and Chelsea, you have to look at them always as being the main challengers to us," said Ferguson.

    "In the last few years, it's been Chelsea but Arsenal made a great attempt this year.

    "To win 19 is fantastic, to be the most successful team in the country in terms of championship victories, and the minute we won (the Premier League) for the first time in 1992, the door opened for us and it's an incredible achievement." 

    In the bag

    It is more a matter of 'when', rather than 'if' United will wrap up the title.

    United now sit six points ahead of Chelsea with two games - at Blackburn and at home against Blackpool - remaining in the season.

    Ferguson had made nine changes for Wednesday's European Champions League semi-final second leg against Schalke 04 from the side that set up a comfortable lead in the first leg with an eye on the title-decider against Chelsea at Old Trafford.

    The Scot used a total of 19 different starters in the two matches this week, drawing on nearly a quarter of a century of experience at the club to get full use out of his squad and it looked as if those tactics had paid off in a blistering performance that swept Chelsea aside.

    Once the title is in the bag United could well rest some legs before the Champions League final against Barcelona on May 28.

    European glory

     Barcelona lie in wait for United on May 28 [AFP]

    "In the next few weeks, we've got to be doing some work on Barcelona. Of course it'll be about that in the week now in particular but we've got to get a point at Blackburn," said Ferguson.

    "We just need one point now and I think, knowing the players, they won't muck it up, they'll get their point - there's no doubt about that."

    United have less than two weeks before the European showpiece at Wembley against Spanish giants Barca, who are similarly poised to clinch a third straight Primera Division title.

    When Barca play at mid-table Levante on Wednesday they could already have secured their domestic title if Real Madrid fail to beat neighbours Getafe at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

    Barcelona have been favourites to win the Champions League all season but United's persistent attack against Chelsea will have given them plenty to think about.

    If Park Ji-sung keeps up anything like the energy levels he managed on Sunday and Antonio Valencia ravages the right wing again, United could be hard to contain especially with Javier Hernandez lurking to shoot at any moment.

    Rivalry delight

    While United savour the possibilities that lie ahead, one of the sweetest will be breaking the record of 18 domestic titles they share with bitter rivals Liverpool.

    When the Merseyside club won the most recent of their titles 21 years ago, few thought the record would be overtaken any time soon - especially not by a club who at that time had won the honour only seven times.

    "Fifteen, twenty years ago, you'd never have thought it," midfielder Ryan Giggs, present in every single one of United's Premier League titles, said.

    "It's a great achievement by the club and by the manager to haul back our biggest rivals over the 70s, 80s and 90s. We're nearly there and if we do it, it will be special."

    'Special' was not the word being uttered at Anfield.

    "We never thought anyone could knock us off our perch," former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen wrote in British broadsheet The Daily Telegraph.

    "Just as United's fans found it hard to give Liverpool credit when we were the pre-eminent force, there will be little credit where it is due for Ferguson's achievement from Anfield.

    "Instead, Liverpool's fans will concentrate on the one record they have left: five European Cups to United's three. And even that may be cut to one by the end of the month."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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