Vidic: No repeat of collapse
Nemanja Vidic insists Manchester United will not let lightning strike twice as they close on regaining the Premier League title. United still have some tricky hurdles to navigate before they reach the winning line. At the end of Cheltenham week, keen racing enthusiast Sir Alex Ferguson embraced the theory that a testing run-in can catch even the most likely winners out. It would take a collapse even more shocking than Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National to deprive United of a record 20th title now though. Fifteen points clear with nine games left, the Red Devils could have the job completed by the middle of next month, with their own 18-point record winning margin in the Premier League era also in their sights. There should be no collapse like 12 months ago, when they tossed away an eight-point advantage in the space of four games. But Vidic is still preaching caution. "It is a big gap and we shouldn't let that change," said Vidic. "We have the title in our hands. "What happened last season is the reason why sometimes you can feel the fans get nervous. "But I don't think we should allow that to happen again. We can't allow that to happen again. "But we still have some tough away games at places that are traditionally hard for us so nothing is finished yet." It is true that Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea represent a third of their remaining fixtures. But Aston Villa and Swansea must go to Old Trafford too, which should account for almost half of the 13 points now required after Wayne Rooney's 16th goal of the season wrapped up a 1-0 win against Reading on Saturday evening. And the memory of that journey back from Sunderland last season, after City's late heroics had snatched away a prize they finished their final game believing was going to be theirs is likely to ensure no loss of focus. "You don't get any points for that," said Ferguson, when asked if United would be counting their chickens. Defender Chris Smalling was more measured in his response. "Last season is a massive incentive to make sure we hold on to this lead," he said. "We can't rest on our laurels. We have to make sure we finish it well before the season is over." The sense is of a side not merely content with reclaiming their crown. It appears United want to do so in the most comprehensive manner possible in order to emphasise their superiority. In his team selection on Saturday, Ferguson was even taking into account the state his players would return from their various international commitments in, knowing trips to Sunderland and Chelsea - in the FA Cup quarter-final replay - come in a 48-hour spell upon their return. It probably explains why Ferguson was so cautious on Friday when he addressed the England call-up for Rio Ferdinand. The defender has now been cleared to accept Roy Hodgson's invitation to report for duty at St George's Park on Monday. Ferdinand will do so after another impressive performance, in which he claimed the assist for Rooney's first-half goal, yet more evidence of the thoroughness of his preparation, even if stand-in Royals boss Eamonn Dolan wishes the 34-year-old was not quite so diligent. "It makes me sick," he said. "I am inspired by people like Rio Ferdinand, not just the way he performs but how he has led his life. "He wants to make a difference and does a lot of charity work. "He is a legend. I wish he hadn't done all that medical work and his back was a little bit strained because perhaps he might not have played. "Ferdinand, Vidic, Rooney, Van Persie. Wow. What a spine of a team. "They are the greatest football club in the world, led by the greatest manager of all time."
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