Monday, February 02, 2009

Scousers make running in title race as Fergie predicts trouble ahead..

United's five-point lead at the top of the table was cut to just two points on Sunday after Liverpool snatched victory late on at Anfield, thanks to two goals from Fernando Torres. The manner of the Spaniard's second goal will have no doubt had even United fans smiling given that it stemmed from a gift by Ashley Cole. It was a narrow victory for Liverpool and the same can be said of United's 1-0 win over Everton, Michael Carrick was the star of the show, he was easily the best player on the park and fully deserved to be man-of-the-match.

Following a fairly steady, if not spectacular, start to his United career, Carrick has blossomed into United's arch midfield instigator, taking over from the genius Paul Scholes. The complexion of United's engine room seems to be in an almost constant state of flux with the manager chopping and changing when he sees fit, but results have proven that Fergie has been getting it consistently right. The manager's work has to a large degree been made easy by the Champions rock-solid defence which hasn't been breached in 12 league games, which is an impressive record and one that will be the envy of United's rivals.

Going into Sunday's game on Merseyside, many neutrals in the media were hoping that the Sunday's clash at Anfield would end in victory for one of the two teams - anything but a draw was the percieved ideal outcome. With a game in hand and a five-point advantage the fear was that the Champions might streak away from the chasing pack. Fergie and United fans on the other hand, were not surprisingly hoping for a draw, it wasn't to be, but the Reds remain in pole position and they remain fully justified favourites to win the league again.

Ferguson has been keen not to talk up the Champions title winning credentials, the United manager has seen it all before and he knows that nothing is won at this stage of the season. It was therefore with good reason that following the win over Everton he spoke of the "twists and turns" ahead. Next up United travel to Upton Park to face West Ham for what is almost always a difficult away game.

West Ham, like many teams seem to reserve their very best performances for the visit of United. Fergie and United fans have bitter memories of trips to East London, added to which the Hammers are bang in form and haven't lost at home since December when Villa won courtesy of an own goal.

The managerial partnership of Zola and Steve Clarke seems to be working very well; they will be looking forward to pitting their wits against Fergie next Sunday, in what will be an intriguing encounter with Ferdinand and Carrick returning to their old stomping ground.

For their part Liverpool have chance to regain top-spot in the Premier League when they travel to Portsmouth on Saturday evening. It is all to play for and with United still heavily involved in four competitions they are going to need some luck when avoiding injuries over the coming weeks ahead.

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