United off to good start as key stretch of season starts
Updated: 2011-12-12 08:00
MANCHESTER - Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's chances of beating Manchester City to the Premier League title depend on its position at the turn of the year.
English champion United responded to its Champions League exit with a resounding 4-1 win over Wolves that moved it within two points of domestic table-topper City.
The midweek 2-1 defeat by Basel meant United failed to make it through to the knock-out phase of the Champions League for only the third time.
During the match in Switzerland, it also lost captain Nemanja Vidic for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
While City's next two domestic matches are against Chelsea and Arsenal, United has a relatively easy run in the Premier League.
Its next group of games sees it come up against QPR, Fulham, Wigan and Blackburn in the run up to January.
City's impressive start to the season has left some observers believing the race for the Premier League title is a foregone conclusion.
But United manager Ferguson was adamant that plenty can change over the next six months.
"You hope (the win over Wolves puts City under pressure) but the important thing is to have our game right, and if we get to New Year's Day in the frame, we've got a great chance in the second half of the season," he said.
"On Wednesday (in Basel) we worked our socks off and didn't get a break, but against Wolves we worked our socks off and got the breaks. Some of the football was fantastic. They're all disappointed about Wednesday and the young players haven't experienced a bad defeat like that before but it will be a good thing for them."
Nani opened the scoring at Old Trafford with his first Premier League goal since September, and Wayne Rooney ended a similarly barren run - he had not scored in eight league games - shortly after.
Steven Fletcher pulled one back just after halftime, but Nani added a third before Rooney scored United's fourth.
Now Ferguson is hoping England striker Rooney can go on a scoring spree.
"You hope they go on a spurt now. Wayne goes in spurts and he scored 11 in the early part of the season.
"We're now in an important part of the season and if he can do that again it will put us in good fettle."
(China Daily 12/12/2011 page24)
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