Get ready for a wild eight week ride folks. As Sir Alex Ferguson has a habit of saying at this stage of the season “Squeaky bum time” is here and it has arrived with a vengeance starting this coming Sunday with the visit of Liverpool. Clashes between these two old rivals have always been fierce yet the stakes have never been higher than they will be this weekend…and for a very good reason.
Manager Rafa Benitez may well regard the three points as a valuable step towards a desperately needed, guaranteed Champions League spot he had perhaps unwisely promised to Anfield fans. Yet they in turn will gladly sacrifice that prize if it means undermining United’s quest for an unprecedented 19th title which will break the record jointly held by the two clubs.
Liverpool had for many years taunted their rivals with the claim of being “the most decorated club in England” until Ferguson succeeded in bringing 11 titles to Old Trafford since 1993 to equal that proud record. Any thoughts of being left trailing behind at the end of this season will be met with a great deal of bitterness and despair which will be resented on Merseyside for many years to come.
While no silverware is at stake, this game will be regarded as a Cup Final for success starved Liverpool fans in yet another season without domestic trophies but for United, it’s just another 90 minutes in a relentless march towards setting another never achieved milestone of winning four successive Premiership titles.
The task ahead for the Reds is as tough as it can get with the Easter Saturday home clash against Chelsea shaping up to be the ultimate crunch match. Obtaining all 3 points from that game will be absolutely vital yet far from decisive.
A visit to the blue half of Manchester and a high flying Tottenham Hotspur at home must also be faced while at the same time keeping a close eye on an Arsenal side which is certain to maintain enormous pressure to fulfill its own title ambitions.
In case those challenges are not deemed to be taxing enough, there are also away fixtures at Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland before rounding off the Premier League season at home to Stoke City. In between all that, the European Champions League continues with the two leg quarter, hopefully followed by the semi finals against whatever opposition the draw throws up on Friday night this week.
As can be seen from all that, being a Manchester United fan at this time of year is always nerve-racking. Trimming your fingernails is definitely not recommended because they will be needed to constantly chew on for the rest of the season but stop and consider for a moment, would you ever swap places with those Liverpool supporters visiting Old Trafford this weekend for their own version of a cup final?
But wait, they do have a trophy to chase. It’s something called a Europa League to which they were relegated after being unceremoniously dumped from the Champions League earlier in the season. Now how can THAT be forgotten!