Alex Ferguson said Manchester United deserves a record 19th English league title after a 2-1 win against Chelsea moved his team to the cusp of the championship.
Javier Hernandez and Nemanja Vidic got goals at Old Trafford yesterday to give United a six-point lead over second- place Chelsea with two games remaining. Avoiding defeat in either of those matches would guarantee a 12th title since the Premier League was formed 19 years ago.
“We just need one point now and, knowing the players, they’ll get their point,” United manager Ferguson told his team’s website. “To win the 19th title would be fantastic. The minute we won for the first time in 1992, the door opened for us. It’s an incredible achievement.”
Third-place Arsenal lost 3-1 at Stoke yesterday, ending its title bid. At the other end of the standings, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 to climb out of the relegation positions.
United led after only 36 seconds, Mexico striker Hernandez getting the 13th league goal of his debut season in England. Park Ji-Sung slid through a pass to Hernandez, who ran onto the ball before striking a low shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The home team dominated the early stages and Cech had to make a diving save to keep out a 30-yard shot from Wayne Rooney after eight minutes.
Rooney hit another long-range effort just wide six minutes later and Park also tested Cech. Vidic then doubled United’s lead in the 23rd minute, heading in Ryan Giggs’s cross from close range.
Chelsea had two opportunities soon after -- Edwin van der Sar pushing away a header from Salomon Kalou and beating away a powerful drive by Didier Drogba.
The Blues pulled a goal back on 68 minutes through England midfielder Frank Lampard. Branislav Ivanovic headed down Ramires’s pass for Lampard to score with a volley.
United almost replied moments later on a breakaway, though Alex made a sliding clearance in front of goal to deny Rooney.
Hernandez should have scored in the 87th minute as he headed over from six yards out.
At the other end, Fernando Torres dragged a shot wide as United held on for its fourth win in five games against Chelsea this season. A win for the Blues yesterday would have put the defending champions top of the standings on goal difference.
Ferguson’s team can now secure the title with a draw or win in their next game, at Blackburn on May 14. United then hosts Blackpool in its final match. A 19th English league soccer championship would lift United one ahead of the record of 18 it shares with archrival Liverpool.
“We’ll try to get it done as soon as possible,” said the 37-year-old Giggs, who made his debut in 1991 when United had seven titles to Liverpool’s 18. “It’s a great achievement by the club and by the manager to haul back our biggest rivals over the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. We’re nearly there and if we do it, it will be special.”
Arsenal’s slim chances of finishing atop the standings were earlier ended by a defeat at F.A. Cup finalist Stoke.
Kenwyne Jones, Jermaine Pennant and Jonathan Walters got Stoke’s goals at the Britannia Stadium to lift their team four spots to eighth. Robin van Persie replied for Arsenal with his 20th goal of the season.
“It was a disappointing performance,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters. “The competitive level for Stoke was higher than ours.”
At Molineux, Steven Fletcher got two goals, with Adlene Guedioura also scoring to lift Wolves up two spots to 17th with 37 points, one ahead of Blackpool and Wigan. West Ham is in last place with 33 points.
Blackburn and Birmingham, who both have 39 points, are also not yet assured of retaining Premier League status. The bottom three teams are relegated at the end of the season.
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