Ferguson warning over strugglers
Sir Alex Ferguson has warned his players to beware opponents starting to wake from their slumbers who present a significant threat to Manchester United's Premier League title hopes.
Five points clear of Manchester City with seven games remaining, Ferguson refused to respond to Roberto Mancini's theory that if United beat QPR on Sunday, and City lose at Arsenal, a 20th championship will be secure.
Nor was Ferguson that interested in discussing Mancini's observation that if he was a player he would have punched Mario Balotelli by now.
"Strangle them maybe," he said. "Players can frustrate you. And not just players. It's a difficult industry we're in."
Difficult enough for Ferguson, after a couple of weeks' banter about the comments of Patrick Vieira, to adopt a single-minded approach to the task that lies ahead; matches against QPR, Wigan and Aston Villa, all of whom are mired in relegation trouble.
That QPR have beaten Liverpool and Arsenal at Loftus Road on the last two weekends, Wigan followed up their first ever win at Anfield by defeating Stoke, Bolton have just won three matches on the trot and the fact United failed to score until the final 10 minutes at Blackburn on Monday merely underlines the hazards that must be overcome.
"They are all wakening up I suppose," he said. "No-one would have bet on QPR beating Liverpool and Arsenal two weeks in a row and Wigan have had hit a bit of form too.
"The statistics for teams at the bottom picking up points are not good. What we had last weekend which was exceptional. All of a sudden Blackburn are right back into it and Villa are not out of it either."
If there is a concern amongst the United support, it is that their team believe the job is done and start to ease off after an incredible run that has brought them 31 points from a possible 33. A nervous final 15 minutes against Fulham a fortnight ago was not typical.
"I wouldn't anticipate complacency but if your concentration isn't 100% you get moments in games like we experienced against Fulham," said Ferguson.