Winning the Premier League is one of the toughest tasks in world sport – and it has been made just that little bit harder for Manchester United. Two weather hit, postponed away matches have now been rescheduled with the trip to Blackpool taking place on January 25 and a visit to title holders Chelsea set down for Tuesday March 1. The West London fixture was initially due to be played last Sunday but was postponed – possibly prematurely, due to heavy snowfall around Stamford Bridge. That date is subject to change however if either side has an FA Cup replay to fit into an already tight schedule. Should both teams be eliminated from the competition in the third or fourth round, the fixture could be brought forward to an earlier weekend – and I for one am hoping for it!
It’s an opinion that may sound like blasphemy but in all honesty, I will not shed any tears if United gets eliminated from the Cup, yes, even if it’s by the hated Scousers! It will save United from having to bother about a further three cup ties and possible replays. My priority is the nineteenth title, the Champions League comes a close second while the FA Cup is a distant – far distant, last. Liverpool and others are welcome to it because it only exist for those who cannot win any other trophy. Portsmouth are the ultimate proof while Millwall and Cardiff City have both come mighty close to providing further evidence of it in the last decade.
A heavy schedule over the festive season is followed by the following fixtures which Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United have to face after Liverpool come to Old Trafford for the third round of the FA Cup.
Sunday January 9 – Home Liverpool FA Cup third Round
Sunday January 16 – Away Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday January 22 – Home Birmingham City
Tuesday January 25 – Away Blackpool
Saturday January 29 – FA Cup Fourth Round
Tuesday February 1 – Home Aston Villa
Saturday February 5 – Away Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sunday February 13 – Home Manchester City
Saturday February 19 – FA Cup Fifth Round
Wednesday February 23 – Away Marseilles
Saturday February 26 – Away Wigan
Tuesday March 1 – Away Chelsea
Saturday March 5 – Away Liverpool
Saturday March 12 – FA Cup Sixth Round
Tuesday March 15 – Home Marseilles
Although Ferguson admits that the Stamford Bridge postponement suited Chelsea more than United with the champions currently struggling for top form, he retains confidence that his side can end a long winless run at Stamford Bridge. “They were in a bad bit of form and they were probably quite happy to get the game off, that’s one way of looking at it” the manager told his pre Sunderland press conference “but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter when we’re going to Chelsea, we have got to be confident of going there with the right team to win.”
Ferguson has faced this sort of fixture congestion many times during his time at Old Trafford and has proven to be the master at handling these type of hurdles. In a title race which is proving to be much closer than it has been for many years, his championship winning know how may yet prove to be the factor which makes the difference between ultimate success and the narrowest of failures.
Having said that, early elimination from the FA Cup will not do any harm to United’s chances of clinching one of the only two titles which have become worth winning in modern day football – even if it means elimination from the FA Cup by their biggest rivals.
Will you accept FA Cup defeat by Liverpool if it helps to win another Premier League title?