Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United plan to take grip of title race

Nemanja Vidic feels Manchester United can land a major psychological blow by winning their game in hand against Fulham tonight.

The match was originally due to be played last August but was postponed due to United's presence in the European Super Cup between the winners of the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

Since then, Sir Alex Ferguson's men have been lagging behind on the fixture list, feeling the precise state of the Premier League would not be established until the matches evened themselves out.

Little did United think they would be five points clear of second-placed Liverpool, eight in front of Aston Villa and 10 ahead of Chelsea, which is the prize on offer for victory at Old Trafford.

"Psychologically it would be very good to win this game in hand," said Vidic, who is enjoying a sensational season.

"It will be difficult but we are determined to get the victory because when this match is over, we will have played the same number of games as everyone else. Most of the time we have been a few points behind but if we beat Fulham we will be in a very good position."

After keeping 13 successive clean sheets in the league, it is perhaps no surprise United should find themselves on their present lofty perch.

But the Carling Cup finalists are still shocked at how quickly they have gained the upper hand given their fears heading to Japan for the Club World Cup in December.

"Immediately before that tournament we drew with Tottenham and were thinking how the table would look when we got back," said Vidic.

"But no-one took advantage and this is a time of year when we have always done well, so once we started playing our matches again, we caught up pretty quickly."

Like Edwin van der Sar, Vidic has been an ever-present member of the United defence during their record-breaking run.

Little wonder the tough-tackling Serbian has been installed as

favourite for the PFA Player of the Year prize and attracted admiring glances from AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Not that Vidic, 27, has any intention of going anywhere just yet, having relished the three years he has already spent at Old Trafford.

Vidic is among a clutch of senior players set to get their places back after Ferguson relied heavily on youth for the FA Cup triumph at Derby on Sunday.

Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick and Carlos Tevez can all expect to be involved, along with Van der Sar.

Having now claimed English and British league records for the amount of time without conceding a goal, the Dutchman is now moving on to the European list.

That record belongs to former Club Bruges stalwart Dany Verlinden, who reached 1,390 minutes in a 16-match run that spanned two seasons in 1990, meaning Van der Sar needs to keep out the Cottagers and Blackburn on Saturday to overhaul him.

Belfast Telegraph


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