Monday, December 24, 2007

It's all set-up for a Boxing Day cracker as United look to put more pressure on Arsenal...

Of the top three United have what looks, at least on paper, to be the easier of the Boxing Day fixtures with a visit to relegation threatened Sunderland for a game that kicks-off at 3pm, while league leader's Arsenal face Portsmouth later that evening. There is of course no such thing as an easy game in the Premier League and Roy Keane's team will be chomping at the bit for their manager who will in turn be looking to put one over on his former boss and ex-team-mates.

During the Old Trafford meeting between the two teams in September, Keane who until that point had been more Father Ted on the touchline rather than the raging mad-axeman like warrior of his old United playing days lost it when decisions went against Sunderland. It was the first time this season that the latent aggression which lurks just beneath surface had manifested itself, but few will have been surprised. Nor should they have been given the man demands that every player gives 100% on and off the pitch in the cause of winning.

Since that Old Trafford meeting which United won one-nil courtesy of a late goal by Saha, Keane's Sunderland have really struggled and in some games like on Saturday against Reading they have not had the rub of the green on the big decisions. Keane was rightly furious with the officials at Reading who saw fit to rule that the ball had crossed the line, yet after umpteen replays no one can be sure of that, but in awarding the goal Steve Coppell's team took the spoils and once again Keane had the pained look on his face of a man who'd just had his wisdom teeth extracted with no anaesthetic.

United fans will be hoping that Keane can keep the Black Cats up this season so while a win for the Reds is vital there will no doubt be mixed feelings for the club's former captain. For his part, the Sunderland manager will be no doubt be banking on a some good fortune against his old club in the belief that lady-luck has to smile upon him and his players sooner or later. Whatever happens on Boxing Day, Keane has cemented his place among the true Old Trafford legends.

Meanwhile, Arsenal who were not at their collective best in Saturday's win over North London rivals Spurs travel to Portsmouth who were on the wrong end of a 4-1 tonking at Anfield on Saturday. However, Pompey were not as bad as the scoreline suggested and they will give Wenger's side a tough game. In many ways, it might actually suit Ferguson if both United and Arsenal go on to win their respective Boxing Day fixtures as the pressure will mount on the Gunners as the weeks go on with the Red Devils breathing down their necks in second place.

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