SAF keen to equal points record
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
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
Match officials quickly gave the go-ahead, and Scotland will
take to the field looking for their first win under Gordon
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
“The record is 95 points by Chelsea,” Ferguson told Sirius
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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.”