Premier League

SAF keen to equal points record

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Tue, 26 Mar 2013 18:36:00

Scotland's World Cup qualifier in Serbia goes ahead this evening after the pitch in Novi Sad passed a late inspection.

Heavy snowfall left the surface at the Karadjordje Stadium blanketed, but a clearing-up operation was organised after meetings between representatives of the opponents' Football Associations.

The pitch was cleared with the help of some travelling supporters, but with the weather remaining unpredictable a final inspection was called for 6pm (GMT) - 90 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.

Match officials quickly gave the go-ahead, and Scotland will take to the field looking for their first win under Gordon Strachan.

Strachan's side go into the game bottom of Group A, two points behind their hosts, following Friday's defeat to Wales.

United head into this weekend's fixtures boasting a 15-point lead over nearest challengers Manchester City.

It means just four wins and a draw are required from their final nine games for the Red Devils to claim a 20th championship and end City's brief reign as English football's top dogs.

Yet Ferguson has an additional target to aim for; eclipsing the mark set by Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2004, which in turn would end any lingering hope City had of hauling back that massive deficit.

"The record is 95 points by Chelsea," Ferguson told Sirius XM.

"If we get to 95 points I would be absolutely delighted. That would be a fantastic season.

"And if we do get to that position, we have probably won the league."

Even if United do not get there, it is hard to see how they could lose their present advantage.

City's demise at Everton just before the international break effectively ended their challenge, with United knowing if they avoid defeat in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on April 8, they will be on track to eclipse their own record 18-point winning margin from 2000.

It has been the best possible recovery by United after having the title snatched from their grasp by Sergio Aguero with virtually the very last kick of the previous campaign.

And one that Ferguson did not expect.

"With Manchester City coming on the scene in the last couple of years and Chelsea and Arsenal and Tottenham, you have teams vying for that top four position," Ferguson said.

"I expected it to be really tight.

"The first point was that after last season, we wanted to make sure we didn't lose it on goal difference and that has improved markedly.

"But I never thought we would be 15 points clear at this stage of the season."

It has given Ferguson some leeway with his selections over the Easter weekend, when United find themselves pitches into two key games in the space of 48 hours.

Following Saturday's lunchtime trip to Sunderland - which could shove United 18 points clear given City are not in action until slightly later - the Red Devils must prepare for Monday's FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As one of the players not being troubled by international duty, Rio Ferdinand can expect significant involvement following his controversial trip to Qatar, whilst Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Anderson should also be fresh.

"Every coach is praying that their players come back fit," said Ferguson.

"They played last Friday and they are playing tonight. Once I know later this evening how many minutes each player has played, I will start to think about my team for Saturday.

"I have to make sure I have some freshness in the team because we also have Chelsea on Monday lunchtime.

"It is a big ask for our squad and something we need to concentrate on because I need to make sure I pick the right teams."

Giggs has a significant role to play, having capped his return to form by signing yet another contract extension that will take him past his 40th year.

And Ferguson does not believe it will end there for the remarkable Welshman, who is set to claim his 13th title winners medal.

"Ryan is an exceptional human being," said Ferguson.

"He has never carried any weight, has never suffered a serious injury and never misses a training session. He is still at the head of the pack during pre-season.

"He just has this insatiable appetite to continue playing.

"He will play next year and who knows he could possibly play for another year after that.

"I am sure he will get to 41 and still be playing because he is such a fit lad."

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