Manchester United must show no mercy to reel in a Chelsea team struggling with life at the top of the Premier League pile.
Carlo Ancelotti’s honeymoon in England is drawing to a close after another unconvincing victory last night required Frank Lampard’s 79th- minute penalty to see off bottom-placed Portsmouth 2-1. The result owed little to the hosts’ attacking endeavour as they notched up a first win in five matches in all competitions.
A similar tale was woven at Old Trafford on Tuesday, as another outfit fighting for survival turned up with a severely depleted side. Controversy has reigned since Mick McCarthy’s decision to make 10 changes condemned Wolves to a 3-0 reversal.
The Midlanders were denied the chance for a fair fight by their manager, although the expected thrashing turned into a mundane procession.
Sir Alex Ferguson will correctly highlight an important three points in the bag after the weekend defeat to Aston Villa. The ebb and flow of a title battle demands a ruthless edge to strike a blow at any demonstration of weakness.
There isn’t supposed to be an easy game in the top flight, but when faced with Championship-standard opposition, as United did in Wolves on Tuesday, the goals should have flown in.
Scorelines act as an important statement of intent in any bid to claim silverware. An advantage has to be fought for.
In previous campaigns, United have always been able to boast the superior goal difference in the closing stages. In the hectic sprint to the finishing line, points can be dropped with abandon.
The title victories of 2006/07 and 2007/08 were both boosted by a distant margin in that column to the chasing Blues. Goal difference can be worth an extra point when it comes to separating warring teams.
Festive cheer is in supply everywhere, but United’s empathy needs to be ignored to prevent coming up empty when the sport’s decorations are handed out in the summer.
Matt Monaghan, Goal.com UK