22nd April, 2013
Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged his Manchester United players to clinch the Premier League title tonight and then write their names into history by finishing the season with a record points total.
Manchester City’s defeat at Tottenham yesterday means United will pick up their 20th title — and 13th under Ferguson — with a win at home to Aston Villa.
The champions-elect have been criticised for not matching up to Ferguson’s great teams of the past, while others claim that they have not been a particularly strong Premier League this season.
But the Old Trafford boss believes his players can silence doubters by winning their last five games to eclipse Chelsea’s record of 95 points under Jose Mourinho in 2005.
“It’s not beyond the team at all,’ said Ferguson. “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.”
If United finish with 96 points it would arguably be the most successful top-flight campaign in English football history, although the debate is clouded by changes to the number of points awarded for a win and the number of games played.
Just collecting the three points needed to guarantee finishing ahead of City is what matters most, and Ferguson is delighted with the response of his players after the heartbreak they suffered on the final day of last season.
Meanwhile, Paul Lambert has warned Ferguson that Aston Villa are determined to spoil the Old Trafford party.
Lambert’s strugglers are on a mission to postpone Manchester United’s celebrations of a 20th domestic title by securing a potentially pivotal result in their battle against relegation.
Lambert insists his team are not prepared to roll aside, with only three points separating them from third-bottom Wigan.
He is backing his young players to thrive on the pressure and show no fear as they bid to move further clear of the relegation zone.
He said: “The party atmosphere could help us but I don’t want them to win the title against us, because I want to try and win ourselves.
“If you don’t enjoy going there and playing in that environment, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. You’ve got to go there and enjoy it and handle it. I don’t think they’ll be nervy about it, I think they’ll go to enjoy it.
“We have to fight for everything to stay in the league. I’m always positive over it and our job is to keep this club in the league and keep building it.
“I think I said a number of weeks ago there will be other teams getting dragged into this and it’s happened. It’s going to be tough and no-one expects anything from us but we’re going to go there to try to win it.”