Two-point gap isn’t too bad – Fergie
Sir Alex Ferguson is happy to accept being two Premier League points behind Chelsea after Manchester United’s recent defensive injury crisis.
United tackle Wigan at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Victory against the Latics will get United precisely to that point in the Premier League title race.
"I would definitely have taken being two points behind the leaders," said Ferguson. "When you look at all the defenders we have had out injured. It has been a key period to try and get through it.
"It is impossible to play midfield players at centre-back in this league. You might get away with it once. But not twice."
In fact, United’s struggles, which included a home defeat to Aston Villa and a pre-Christmas hammering at Fulham, only tell part of the story of an extraordinary month.
At one point on Monday, it appeared Ferguson’s team would be trying to secure top spot against Wigan before Chelsea eventually scrambled to a narrow win over Fulham that edged them five points in front of a chasing pack that includes Arsenal, Tottenham, Villa and also Manchester City, whose new manager Roberto Mancini claimed the Blues were gunning for the title after a hat-trick of wins over the Christmas period.
"It is so tight," said Ferguson. "When you see it grouped up like that, the teams further down think they can do it.
"Sometimes the optimism is not realistic but people should feel like that about their chances because the league has lacked a consistent team that has won a few matches in a row.
"The vital answer to it is this – can you keep all your players fit?
"Big squads do help but look how we suffered by having all the defenders out.
"Teams who want to do well need a good nucleus of players to work with. Then you can pick your strongest possible team every week."
Neville’s availability after a groin strain suffered against West Ham at the start of the month should allow Ferguson to field an experienced back four for the first time in six weeks.