Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United will be ideally placed to retain their Premier League title if they reach New Year's Day alongside Manchester City at the top of the table. The Scot, who turns 70 on New Year's Eve, when his team entertain struggling Blackburn Rovers, saw the Red Devils draw level with City on points after an emphatic 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford yesterday.
It marked a remarkable recovery from United, who, as recently as 10 December, trailed City by five points and 17 goals prior to a 4-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Now, following consecutive 5-0 victories, all that separates the record 19-time English champions from the current league leaders are five goals in the goal difference column - the margin of defeat which United suffered at the hands of City in their historic 6-1 home loss to Roberto Mancini's side in October.
"As I say, it's a long season," said Ferguson. "If we get to New Year's Day top, or joint-top with City, then I will be happy.
"I've been saying for a few weeks that somebody was going to suffer against us, and we've really hit good form now and got a goal threat from all departments. The clean sheet was a good part of the game for us, and the consistency of the team is very good now.
"But the injuries are mounting up for us now - Phil Jones was down ill, Chris Smalling was ill, Rio Ferdinand called off with a back injury and Jonny Evans came off injured at half-time. We're getting our fair share."
Those injuries will severely test United with Ferguson confirming that a calf strain will keep Evans on the sidelines for two weeks."We will just have to wait and see," added Ferguson, with an eye on his team selection for the Blackburn game. "I'm hoping Smalling and Jones will recover. That will make a difference."
A single point against Blackburn will take United to solitary ownership of pole position and place intense pressure on City, who visit Sunderland 24 hours later on New Year's Day.
Berbatov makes a statement
For all their defensive injury concerns, there is no doubt that United seem to have found the answer to their goalscoring problems, with Dimitar Berbatov hitting a hat-trick against Wigan in only his second league game of the season.
The Bulgarian forward, the Premier League's joint-leading marksman last season, now has four goals to his name this term and Ferguson said: "It was the right game for him.
"We needed his height to defend against set-pieces. It helps his confidence. He has not had the best of starts to the season in terms of selection, with the options I have in [Danny] Welbeck, [Wayne] Rooney and 'Chicharito' [Javier Hernandez]."