Source: http://manutdblog.net/?p=20Sir Alex Ferguson has given the gentlemen of The Fourth Estate a few memorable sound bites down the years. In the midst of a particularly tense title race with Arsenal back in 2003, Ferguson coined the memorable â€œsqeaky-bumâ€ phrase as part of his well renowned psychological hammering of Arsenal and their boss, Arsene Wenger. The laughter-inducing phrase has since joined â€œbouncebackabilityâ€ in the dictionary and will forever be synonymous with the latter stages of every Premier League title race. Talk about an enduring legacy.
In a private moment on his journey back from the Riverside on Sunday, Ferguson will have pondered that this run-in is set to be as squeaky as it could possibly get. The pulsating 2-2 draw extended United's cushion at the League summit to 3 points. It could have been better, of course, with a potential 5 point lead had United extended their supremacy in the first half an hour. As it happens, United should be content that their lead was not cut to 2 points, after a tenacious Middlesbrough performance amidst a blizzard. In April!
The game itself was a curious affair with United playing some excellent football for the opening half hour of the fixture. Rooney looked sprightly with his clever running and ever infectious enthusiasm, Ronaldo, as ever, took the mantle as the team's creator-in-chief with a series of powerful jinking runs, whilst Michael Carrick continued his recent vibrant form in midfield. It is highly visible now that Carrick has grown as a player since he joined the club, but he now looks at ease in amongst the collection of superstars. He now strides about the field with an authority and presence that we have been yearning for. Gareth Southgate showed his own managerial credentials as he made a subtle change, shifting Jeremie Aliadiere up front. The Frenchman's combination with the previously goal-shy Alves paid dividends as the Â£12 million Brazilian ended up notching a brace.
Ronaldo collected his customary goal after displaying preditory extincts to pounce after good work from Carrick. But most pleasing is the effervescence that Rooney is showing. He has now found the net on four occasions in the past three matches having gone through a real barren spell prior to this. Rooney has at times been thwarted by excellent goal keeping, woodwork and also poor finishing on his own part, however his equaliser on Sunday suggests that his luck has turned. Certainly, I won't be backing against him embarking on one of his trademark scoring sprees before the season's end. It is important that coming into the final straight that the goalscoring load is spread around the team and such a contribution from Rooney is welcome in order to deflect some of the attention from Ronaldo.
Carlos Tevez has divided opinions amongst United fans since his arrival at the club. He plays with an infectious enthusiasm that endears him to fans, teammates and coaches alike. He has also shown a number of glimpses of match winning qualities over the course of the season. However he was forced to trudge off after an ineffectual showing and was replaced by Park. It remains to be seen whether Ferguson opts to sign Tevez permanently once his highly ambiguous loan deal expires, but his ommission from the very top fixtures suggests that the boss is yet to be fully convinced. As it happens, Park entered the fray and helped turn the game with a fabulous assist for Rooney. The South Korean is perceived to be a squad member at United but with the relative lack of form displayed by Tevez and also Ryan Giggs, Park would be justifiably disappointed if he were not to feature against Roma on Wednesday. It is my belief that a football club should operate on the principles of a meritocracy and as such, Park should be lining up with the other 10 starting players on Wednesday with Giggs and Tevez left to mull over their form from the comfort (have you seen those red racing car seats!) of the dugout.
So where does this leave the title race? United lead Chelsea by three points whilst Arsenal are a further three points back. It is a tad presumptious to rule Arsenal out of the running, especially with their upcoming visit to Old Trafford, but it is fair to say that the Gunners are now outsiders after a miserable run of domestic form. Before United face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (April 26th), Ferguson's side face Arsenal at home and Blackburn away. Chelsea face the slightly less daunting task of defeating Wigan at home and Everton away. One feels that United will want to have their three point lead in tact upon visiting the Bridge and so six points is necessary from two testing fixtures.
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford on the back of what will be an absorbing encounter with Liverpool in the Champions League. The League match between the two sides at the weekend exposed Arsenal as looking rather jaded and in search of the finishing line. United's 2-0 lead over Roma should ensure that they turn up on Sunday suitably refreshed in comparison to Arsenal and this, allied with Arsenal's lack of form means that anything less than a win would be a huge disappointment. United's visit to Ewood Park will also be viewed with an element of trepidation, in light of the fact that we have won only 1 of our last 5 league fixtures there. But I would expect our side to get the result against a team who, bar the pride of ensuring as high a league finish as possible, have very little to play for.
Of course, the difficulty of our fixtures could be magnified by injuries to key personnel. Nemanja Vidic should be back to lock horns with Didier Drogba in late April, whilst there is (at the time of writing) no news on Rio Ferdinand's knock. John O'Shea and Wes Brown as good professionals and servants to the club, but the mantle of strongest backline in the country will be unceremoniously yanked away from us if they are deployed for too long a period. All we can do is hope the Gods smile upon us with Ferdinand's recovery. Whatever happens, it is just like United to have to do things the difficult way!
United fans should take comfort in having experienced campaigners like van der Sar, Giggs and Scholes at the club. No doubt Gary Neville will be doing his fair share of cojoling behind the scenes as well. This club is well versed in the operations of a tense run-in and will be keeping their feet on the ground whilst us fans go crazy.
Another point to take into account is that it is quite conceivable that United could end this season empty handed. A three point lead with our difficult fixture list gives Chelsea plenty of hope, whilst the Champions League is a cup competition where factors such as penalty shoot outs can decide the destiny of matches with narrow margins. I believe we are in the unique position of not having any scapegoats were this season to go belly-up from here on in. We have been generally consistent thus far and a number of players have excelled. Van der Sar, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Brown, Ronaldo, Carrick, Tevez and Rooney have all enjoyed good seasons, whilst the likes of Anderson and Nani have propelled themselves into the spotlight with the odd show stopping cameo. At the risk of sounding Mourinho-esque, I would go as far as saying if United fail to finish top of the league, then the best team will have finished second.
The league championship is in United's hands. We tend to perform at our very best when the chips are down, and whilst I would not say we were in a perilous situation now, the draw will focus us for the challenges that lie ahead. The pressure is very much still on Chelsea, who could win all of their remaining league matches and still fail to land the crown. After 33 games, I would say that was a pretty secure position for us to be in. It's going to be sqeaky. Bring it on!
By Bobby Hare
I completely agree with the author, i believe its a brilliant peice and I am confident United with be victorious on both fronts. We shall not be moved!