Red Devils vs Blues for season final
Top two lined up for televised title showdown
Thursday December 28, 2006
Manchester United and Chelsea are being lined up for an end-of-season showdown at Stamford Bridge which Premier League and television executives anticipate could represent a winner-takes-all title decider.
United are currently scheduled to visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday April 14. That, however, has also been designated as the weekend for FA Cup semi-finals and, if either club make it to that stage, the league game will be postponed until the final week of the season, with May 8 or 9 the most likely dates.
Sky is acutely aware of the interest that would exist around such a match and the possibility has already been floated of rearranging the fixture with the intention of recreating a game that will have similarities to Arsenal's visit to Liverpool in May 1989 - when Michael Thomas's last-minute goal sent the title to Highbury on goal difference.
The Premier League confirmed last night that it is a "possibility" but for now, at least, it remains dependent not only on United or Chelsea progressing to the last four of the FA Cup but on them still being within touching distance of each other in April. United are currently four points ahead after the Boxing Day fixtures, when United overcame Wigan 3-1 while Chelsea could manage only a 2-2 draw at home to Reading.
United also have a far superior goal difference, having scored 44 goals and conceded 11 in their 20 league games. Chelsea have scored 35 with 15 conceded and Ferguson felt sufficiently emboldened yesterday to predict that the 13-goal advantage would not be clawed back and effectively counted as another point.
"The goal difference helps us," said the United manager. "There is no doubt about that. I have always believed that 10 or 12 goals makes up another point and, if it remains that way, it is something we will have to fall back on. Hopefully we won't have to but it is there anyway."
Ferguson believes that Chelsea, despite their recent problems, still have the strength in depth to sustain a challenge for the remainder of the season but he has said more than once that he will be happy for it to go down to the final week of the season and a "photo-finish".
posted by Steve @ 12:06:00 AM