The five games that will seal Manchester United’s Premier League title fate

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    28 Feb 2011 12:25:00

    ANALYSIS
    By Stephen Darwin

    With just 11 Premier League games remaining for Manchester United, the finishing line is edging ever closer as Sir Alex Ferguson looks to steady his crosshair and home in on title No.19, edging ahead of Liverpool in the all-time standings in the process.

    Other than the occasional blip here and there, the Red Devils have been largely untroubled at the summit throughout the season although as crunch time approaches, United’s title credentials are set to be tested to the max as an unenviable run of fixtures sees the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool lie in wait.

    So as the Premier League season approaches its climax, Goal.com UK looks at the five crucial games that could deliver glory for Ferguson and his troops or alternatively see their title ambitions go up in a puff of smoke.
     
    March 1: Chelsea (Stamford Bridge)


    WHY IT MATTERS

    A win for United would not only signify the Red Devils’ first at Stamford Bridge since 2002 but it would also, perhaps crucially, extend the gap ahead of second-placed Arsenal to seven points.

    PAST FIVE VISITS

    John Terry’s headed goal sealed a tight encounter last season while Salomon Kalou’s equaliser denied the Red Devils back in the 2008-09 season and a Michael Ballack double earned all three points for Chelsea the season before. Dong Fangzhuo started as United held on for a 0-0 draw in 2007 while the Blues picked up a convincing 3-0 win a year prior to secure a second successive title.

    DANGER RATING: Third most dangerous

    Despite their domestic struggles this term, a defeat to Chelsea would still be something of a blow to United and would provide Arsenal with the perfect pick-me-up after their agonising League Cup final defeat.

    March 6: Liverpool (Anfield)



    WHY IT MATTERS

    Despite the presence of Manchester City, Ferguson continues to pinpoint the rivalry with Liverpool as the more significant. This fixture is always full of passion and spice but with United on course for an unprecedented 19th title, a fixture at Anfield becomes all the more momentous.

    PAST FIVE VISITS

    United’s last win at Anfield came in December 2007 as Carlos Tevez scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory. Liverpool have come out on top twice since then, winning 2-0 and 2-1 over the last two seasons, while March 2007 saw the Red Devils claim all three points as John O’Shea scored the winner. Liverpool booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals back in 2005 on the day when Alan Smith suffered a horrific leg break.

    DANGER RATING: Fourth most dangerous

    A defeat to Kenny Dalglish’s side certainly wouldn’t be curtains with regards to United’s title ambitions but it would certainly not be the ideal preparation ahead of a potential meeting with Arsenal in the FA Cup the following weekend.

    May 1: Arsenal (The Emirates)

    WHY IT MATTERS

    As the season draws to a close, the meeting at the Emirates between the two front runners with just three games remaining thereafter could prove to be this year’s title decider.

    PAST FIVE VISITS

    Trips to the Emirates have been kind to United over the last couple of years with consecutive 3-1 victories securing Premier League and Champions League triumphs. The Gunners did, however, claim the points in the league with 2-1 scorelines back in January 2007 and November 2008 with a 2-2 draw wedged in between as William Gallas notched a late equaliser.

    DANGER RATING: Most dangerous

    While it’s difficult to predict what the exact points difference between the two will be ahead of this fixture, one would suspect it’s going to be tight where a win for either side would surely put them in the driving seat for the three remaining games of the season.

    May 7: Chelsea (Old Trafford)

    WHY IT MATTERS

    A win for United would pile the pressure on title rivals Arsenal ahead of the penultimate game of the season and the Premier League crown could be within touching distance as a result.

    PAST FIVE VISITS

    Didier Drogba’s controversial goal helped seal a 2-1 win for Chelsea at Old Trafford last term as the Blues landed a killer blow with regards to United’s title hopes. The Red Devils are unbeaten in the four encounters previous to last season, with three wins and a 1-1 draw back in November 2006.

    DANGER RATING: Second most dangerous

    Much could depend on the outcome of the meeting with Arsenal the week before, as well as whether Arsene Wenger’s side pick up a result at Stoke City on the same day, although a home loss to the Blues and it could be difficult for Ferguson to rally his troops and get back on track.

    May 14: Blackburn Rovers (Ewood Park)

    WHY IT MATTERS

    United went to Ewood Park last season and failed to leapfrog Chelsea at the top with four games of the campaign remaining as they were held at Ewood Park and a similar result this time around could turn out to be a crushing blow.

    PAST FIVE VISITS

    Ferguson’s side have hardly had it all their own way at Ewood Park and, prior to last season’s 0-0 draw, the Red Devils had won two, lost one and drawn one in Lancashire. The pick of the bunch for Rovers fans will undoubtedly have been the 4-3 victory back in 2006 as David Bentley grabbed a hat-trick in an astonishing encounter between the two.

    DANGER RATING: Fifth most dangerous

    United will no doubt be the odds on favourites to pick up the win but this is the proverbial banana skin and if any nerves do creep in and Rovers grab a result, the title may just be handed to Arsenal there and then.

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    The five games that will seal Manchester United’s Premier League title fate