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Source: Goal.com



Manchester United are just a mere seven games away from a possible Barclays Premiership-Champions League Double. Can Sir Alex Ferguson's men go on to write another glorious chapter in the club's illustrious history?

Manchester United are now well placed to retain the Barclays Premier League title they won last season following their victory over Arsenal on Sunday and Chelsea's draw at home to Wigan the following day. And with a two-legged semi-final against Barcelona to come in the Champions League, the prospect of a glorious Double is moving sharply into focus for Sir Alex Ferguson's side. That dream is now just seven games from becoming reality, though fulfilling it will be a test of temperament and tenacity as well as talent.

In the Premier League, Monday night's dropped points by Chelsea mean the Blues, United's closest challengers, are now trailing the Red Devils by five points with four games remaining, and it would need a United collapse of major proportions for Chelsea to overhaul them. Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson's side could be crowned champions at Stamford Bridge on April 26th when the two rivals meet.

The battle-hardened Ferguson remains cautious, aware that the race could yet involve further twists. "Wigan's draw with Chelsea puts us in a good position but in my experience in life you don't take things for granted," he said. "We've got some difficult games ahead - Blackburn, West Ham, Chelsea and Wigan."

In a message no doubt intended to snuff out any tendency towards complacency among his troops, Ferguson added: "We have three away games and one at home so we have to do a job. Because we have difficult games left there is still a lot to play for and it could still go down to the wire."

Indeed it could, but the momentum is certainly with United now. Chelsea not only need to beat the Red Devils and win their other remaining games - at Everton on Thursday, at Newcastle on 5th May and at home to Bolton on the final day of the season; they also need United to slip against one of their three other opponents - Rovers, West Ham or Wigan. It seems an unlikely scenario, though as Chelsea manager Avram Grant and several of his players have emphasised, it is still possible.

United's position is further strengthened by a goal difference that is superior to Chelsea's by a massive 19 - reflecting United's positive approach throughout the season. They boast the Premier League's tightest defence and its most prolific attack, and their goal difference of +54 is their reward for pursuing an expansive game built on a sound foundation at the back.

Their three main strikers alone - Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez - have scored 71 goals between them in all competitions, and 50 in the League, while their defence has conceded just 18 goals in 34 League games.

Chelsea are under great pressure now to beat Everton on Merseyside on Thursday night just to keep in touch with United. Victory for Grant's side at Goodison would cut the gap to two points but leave United with a game in hand, which they will play at Ewood Park on Saturday evening against a Blackburn Rovers side managed by one of Ferguson's protégés, Mark Hughes.

United and Chelsea have got arguably the strongest squads in the League, as reflected match by match in the depth of talent on their respective benches. Yet while Grant has been criticised for the way he has utilised his resources - in terms of team selection and the introduction of substitutes - Ferguson has rotated his players to good effect. And with a five-point cushion he is in a position to rest some of his stars for particular games to keep them fresh for others. That luxury has slipped away from Grant.

The significance of this is all the greater given that both managers have the additional challenge of trying to win the Champions League - with the first leg of the semi-finals looming next week and the second leg following a week later.

In between comes the potentially decisive Chelsea v United showdown.

In selecting his side to face Blackburn on Saturday, Ferguson could conceivably rest the likes of Ronaldo and Rooney, as he did against Roma recently, with an eye on Wednesday's assignment at Camp Nou. And depending on Chelsea's result at Goodison tomorrow and United's at Ewood, Ferguson could even afford to rest some big names at Stamford Bridge (where a draw would suit United but be of little use to the Blues) in order to optimise United's chances of getting past Barcelona and into May's Champions League final in Moscow.

Should they reach the final, United would meet either Chelsea again, or arch-rivals Liverpool. Barca, of course, will have plenty to say about that; but the point is that United's lead in the Premier League has offered Ferguson selection options which could give the Red Devils an edge in the Champions League. Although the Double is potentially on for United or Chelsea, Grant no longer has the same options as Ferguson.

The stakes over the next three weeks are massive. Ferguson has said that winning what would be his tenth Premiership title would be among the most satisfying of the lot because of the intensity of the competition this season from both Arsenal and Chelsea. And common sense suggests that defending champions United already have one hand on the Premier League trophy now.

That means their biggest challenge in winning the Double will be to overcome Barca and then whichever fellow English club gets through the other semi-final.

Winning the Spanish League title is still a possibility for Barcelona - but it is now a remote one as they trail leaders Real Madrid by nine points with six games to go, and their domestic form remains inconsistent. Barca's last four results in La Primera Liga were a victory over Valladolid, a defeat by Betis and draws against Getafe and Recreativo.

On Sunday they host Espanyol in the Barcelona city derby, before entertaining Manchester United on Wednesday. Before the return at Old Trafford the following Tuesday the Blaugrana are away to Deportivo La Coruna. After United they are at home to Valencia before going into El Classico against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on May 7th.

Like United, Barca are undefeated in the Champions League this season, so this much-anticipated semi-final showdown is intriguingly poised. In their European campaign to date, Barca have scored in every one of their away games except the Group clash in Glasgow against Rangers, which finished goalless. In the away legs, the more open games that result when the onus is on the home side to attack, tend to suit Barca's style. So Frank Rijkaard's side will probably be confident of getting on the score-sheet at Old Trafford in the second leg.

Quite how valuable any away goals will prove to be for Barca will depend upon the score at Camp Nou in the first leg, and specifically on how many goals United manage to score there. Ferguson will be equally confident his side will get goals in Catalunya: so far in their unbeaten Champions League campaign they've scored one goal in Lisbon, four in Kiev, one in Rome, one in Lyon and two in Rome again.

The key to the semi-final could therefore be how many goals United take back from Camp Nou to Manchester for the second leg. United will go into the tie as favourites because of the respective recent form of both sides.

United may also have a couple of psychological advantages. Firstly, Camp Nou was the scene of their greatest triumph under Ferguson, when they turned round their Champions League final against Bayern Munich with two goals in the last couple of minutes to win the match 2-1, claim their second European crown and in doing so complete a unique treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.

That year, each leg of the treble was achieved the hard way: United didn't clinch the Premiership until the final day of he season, their 2-1 win at home to Spurs giving them the title by one point over Arsenal, who also won on the last day but had fatally stumbled at Leeds earlier in the week to end a 19-match unbeaten run.

In the FA Cup, Peter Schmeichel saved Dennis Bergkamp's late penalty (the last the Dutchman ever took for Arsenal) to force extra-time in the last-ever semi-final replay, before Ryan Giggs scored THAT goal to take United through to Wembley, where they beat Newcastle.

And in the Champions League, United equalised in the last minute against Juventus to draw 1-1 in the first leg of their semi-final at Old Trafford, then found themselves 2-0 to the Old Lady in Turin before roaring back to win 3-2 on the night, 4-3 on aggregate. Then came the high drama of the final in Barcelona, when substitutes Teddy Sheringham (89th minute) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (90th) wiped out Bayern's sixth minute opener from Basler.

United's other potential psychological advantage is the emotive one that this is the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, when the Busby Babes looked on course to challenge Real Madrid for the third European Cup ever to be staged - until eight of the squad were killed on a snowy Bavarian runway after refuelling on the way back from a successful assignment in Belgrade.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
The fact that, if United can reach the Champions League final in Moscow, their opponents will be a Premier League side they have already beaten this season (either Liverpool - 1-0 away, 3-0 at home - or Chelsea, 2-0 at home) is an additional incentive for the Red Devils.

There are no foregone conclusions in football, but United are unlikely to let the Premier League title slip now. And they are in a very strong position to add to their two previous European Champions Cups/Leagues.

A Double thus beckons tantalisingly: Chelsea, Barcelona or possibly Liverpool could yet prevent it; but the biggest threat to United's ambition could be United themselves. And given that there is not a fibre of complacency in Alex Ferguson's make-up, that seems unlikely.
 

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Don't think we should ask about it now as things always went wrong when we start a thread like this...

Shall we discuss it when we reached the Final of CL and already claimed the EPL???
 

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never even think about it , even fergie doesnt ,what comes along comes along ,
then you can put this thread up and gloat, just think back a couple months ago reading some of the threads we were a sure bet for the treble , then pompey dumped us .
Now barca lie in wait , with a couple of dodgy fixtures left in the league we could posibly finish up empty handed.
I am always happy with one major trophy per season to keep the momentum going and hopefully it will be the league
premature talks of doubles is best left to the media, just remember last year we lost in champs league semi lost in fa cup final just 3 games off another historic treble.
So near yet so far hey
 

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no we cant

there we go, i unjinxed it :p


there is no point thinking ahead like this too much. Lets just take it 1 game at a time. Title is ours to lose but we have to maintain our composure and our league form to get it.

The champions league is just going to be unpredicatable. We have a young side, some players have had little or no CL experience and there is 1 big team + chelsea and liverpool left in the competition.

Barca will be tough oponents and i hear they have messi back and ronnie injured which is a big boost (ronnie is going through a rough period). If we win that then we are likely to face Liverpool who are for some reason good in the CL.

But a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season ie injuries, poor form etc.
 

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red_devils4life said:
The fact that, if United can reach the Champions League final in Moscow, their opponents will be a Premier League side they have already beaten this season (either Liverpool - 1-0 away, 3-0 at home - or Chelsea, 2-0 at home) is an additional incentive for the Red Devils.

There are no foregone conclusions in football, but United are unlikely to let the Premier League title slip now. And they are in a very strong position to add to their two previous European Champions Cups/Leagues.

A Double thus beckons tantalisingly: Chelsea, Barcelona or possibly Liverpool could yet prevent it; but the biggest threat to United's ambition could be United themselves. And given that there is not a fibre of complacency in Alex Ferguson's make-up, that seems unlikely.
Good post.

There's no harm in dreaming about the future but that's all they are at the moment - dreams.

We are very close to winning the league but until it actually happens you can't take anything for granted. Don't forget that in 1992 we were 4 games from winning the title and a poor run of results (we lost 3 of them) handed the league to Leeds United.

Barca may be struggling by their high standards in La Liga but they are still 2nd and have only lost 2 league games at the Nou Camp. They have some wonderful attacking players and I'll be surprised if we manage to keep 2 clean sheets against them.

Although I am being cautious, I am very confident that we will finish the season as English champions and, with this squad, I feel it's our best chance of winning the Champions League in the last few years.
 

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i think deep down every united fan thinks they can do the doubles and trebles all the time , but certain things are better said after the event .
i have jinxed united in the past by organising hotels and flights etc before we have got there especially munich and it all fell apart
 

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God, that is one long article. I do not have the time to be reading all of it.

What i can say though, do not get too carried away with doubles at the moment. They are extremely difficult things to achieve. We all want them and its okay to dream about them but they are unlikely. Just don't get your hopes up!

Look what happen against Milan away last season. We got cained!
 

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RichardsReds said:
God, that is one long article. I do not have the time to be reading all of it.

What i can say though, do not get too carried away with doubles at the moment. They are extremely difficult things to achieve. We all want them and its okay to dream about them but they are unlikely. Just don't get your hopes up!

Look what happen against Milan away last season. We got cained!
Our squad was riddled with injuries then. We lost 3 of our main back 4. This time we've got a full strength squad to pick from.

There is no reason why we can't win it. I'm certain we can. I believe in the players and the manager to do it.
 

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I still believe the draw to be a fix, just so that the champions league can get more money by watching United v Barcelona, isn't it ironic that we get Barcelona instead of an easy tie against another english team?
 

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Im sure we can secure it at the bridge it would be a good day for us revenge for the stamford bridge deafet a few years ago .
 

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Discussion Starter #18
GeordieMancunian said:
I still believe the draw to be a fix, just so that the champions league can get more money by watching United v Barcelona, isn't it ironic that we get Barcelona instead of an easy tie against another english team?
No tie's considered an easy one at this point of time, where United has reached the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League IMO. Not against
Barca who posesses one of the most explosive firepower currently, not against Chelsea who has great quality in terms of strength in depth and hasn't lost a single league game at home for the past 4 years & deffo' not against Liverpool who's a vast experience in the elite European competition albeit hving lifted the trophy 5 times.
 

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possible and very posible,why shouldnt we??????we have a very strong team thats is playing so well,The champions league is just going to be unpredicatable. We have a young side with exemptional talents like rooney,tevez,ronaldo who can decide a tie. some players have had little or no CL experience but still able to deliver TROPHIES
 
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