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Man United hopes lead holds in 2007

Man United hopes lead holds in 2007

There's little time to enjoy Christmas as an English Premier League player or manager when there's a full round of games on Tuesday to prepare for.
Manchester United, which hosts Wigan, leads the standings with 47 points - knowing that every club with that tally after 19 games has gone on to win the title. The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 on Saturday to maintain a two-point lead over defending champion Chelsea at the halfway stage of the season.
"It was great to go into Christmas at the top of the table, certainly better than being second," Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar said.
Chelsea has 45 points, followed by Liverpool with 34, and Arsenal and Bolton on 33.
Wigan won't be a walkover for United - it took a last-minute winner from Arjen Robben for Chelsea to beat it 3-2 on Saturday.
United last won the league in 2003, and it also topped the table on Christmas 2003 but went on to finish third that season behind Arsenal and Chelsea.
British bookmaker William Hill made Chelsea the 4-7 favorite on Sunday to win the league, with United second-favorite at 5-4, and Arsenal and Liverpool both 40-1.
In a packed schedule while other European leagues are on a winter break, Premier League clubs also play on December 30 and either January 1 or 2.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said injuries have affected his team. Captain and central defender John Terry has missed the last two matches with a back injury, while midfielder Joe Cole is recovering from a knee injury and goalkeeper Petr Cech from a depressed skull fracture.
"For the second half of the season we will have some important people back to the team," Mourinho said. "When John Terry, Joe Cole and Petr Cech are back in the team, this is more important than spending money on new players. So for the second part of the season, I feel we can be much stronger."
Mourinho said Manchester United had the benefit of a relatively injury-free squad.
"Last season it was the opposite," Mourinho said. "Everything was fantastic for us and they had problems."
O'Neill honeymoon over
Martin O'Neill's honeymoon period is well and truly over at Aston Villa and new owner Randy Lerner must be acutely aware that his millions are sorely needed as the January transfer window looms.
Despite an excellent start to his reign at Villa Park that saw his side pick up points at Chelsea and Arsenal, O'Neill has now seen his squad go seven games without a win after Saturday's 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United.
Constant complaints about the paucity of the Villa squad were made by previous manager David O'Leary but O'Neill is now beginning to understand the problems encountered by his predecessor.
Lerner, who also owns the Cleveland Browns in the U.S. National Football League, is understood to have set aside 15 million pounds for O'Neill to spend in the New Year, with Spurs strikers Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane believed to be his two main targets.
The equivalent of Scrooge?
There has been speculation that Lerner will prove to be the football equivalent of Scrooge but O'Neill is convinced the American will be anything but a miser when it comes to spending on new players.
"It is nonsense to suggest he has not fulfilled his promise - there has not been the opportunity to do it," said O'Neill whose side, for all its recent form, is still in 10th place.
"When he arrived here before the August window closed he did spend. I am satisfied the chairman will have the club at heart," the former Northern Ireland international added.
Asked about his transfer targets, O'Neill said: "I would prefer someone who has maybe played, or who is playing, Premiership football.
"But it does not mean that I would be so tunnel-visioned as to be making other things unavailable just because of that.
"I think in this day and age there have been a number of foreign players who have come in here and done well because they are very good footballers."


Updated : 2021-05-15 21:57 GMT+08:00