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Manchester United renew league challenge

Fresh from back-to-back cup successes Manchester United return their attention to the Premier League on Wednesday when they face Blackburn Rovers for the second time in a week.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 14:32 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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Fresh from back-to-back cup successes Manchester United return their attention to the Premier League on Wednesday when they face Blackburn Rovers for the second time in a week.

United beat their Lancashire neighbours 2-1 on Wednesday to reach the League Cup final and had another good day on Sunday when they won 3-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Those wins came after last Sunday's last-gasp 1-0 league success over Liverpool that injected renewed life into their campaign for second place and an automatic Champions League slot.

Chelsea, 14 points clear, are also in action at Aston Villa on Tuesday as part of a full midweek league programme, but none of the chasing pack have any realistic hope of catching them.

Second-placed United have 48 points and Liverpool, who host Birmingham City on Tuesday, are four points behind with two games in hand.

United boss Alex Ferguson played a full-strength side against Wolves on Sunday and some of his positional experiments, notably pairing Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand in midfield, were so successful that he is considering a repeat.

"I decided to gamble with Rio and Wayne and they both did okay while Park Ji-Sung's movement off the ball was excellent," Ferguson told United's website.

"It's something I might consider again for the Blackburn game on Wednesday given that Alan Smith is suspended."

Everything is going wrong for Arsenal, whose only hope of silverware this season now depends on them beating Real Madrid in the Champions League in February.

Manager Arsene Wenger is resting his players but it is not clear what for. His deliberately weakened sides went out of both domestic cups in the last week and he seems to be pinning everything on forcing his way back into the top four in the league.

Arsenal, who have not finished outside the top two since Wenger's first season in charge in 1996/97, are fifth on 37 points, four adrift of Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand.

LONDON DERBY

They are at home to another London side, West Ham United, on Wednesday, while Spurs are also involved in a London derby at Fulham 24 hours earlier.

Chelsea, who lost their 100 percent home league record last week in a 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic, had the same result at Everton in the Cup.

Jose Mourinho's side are not at their sparking best at the moment but will expect to get back to winning ways at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Villa were the first team to breach Chelsea's defence this season, in their eighth match, but two Frank Lampard goals secured a 2-1 Stamford Bridge win.

At the other end of the table, Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy is hanging on by his fingertips after his side were knocked out of the FA Cup by third division Brentford.

Sunderland are bottom on nine points, 13 adrift of the safety zone, and host north-east rivals and fellow-strugglers Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

First Published: Jan 30, 2006 14:32 IST