With a 15-point lead and only nine games to go, Manchester United may be on the verge of a record 20th top-flight title but are preparing for this weekend’s trip to Sunderland as if it were a must-win game.
On the final day of last season, United won at Sunderland but were pipped in dramatic fashion as neighbours and rivals Manchester City won at QPR in injury time to take the title.
Last year, United let slip an eight-point lead with six games to go and though this time they are almost home and dry, the memories of 12 months ago are driving them on as they prepare to face a Sunderland side fighting for survival.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is considering rotating some of his squad for the busy Easter period but will not decide on his line-up for the Saturday lunchtime clash until the last minute.
Sunderland sit just four points above the relegation zone and manager Martin O’Neill will have to bring in reinforcements after striker Steven Fletcher and captain Lee Cattermole were ruled out for the rest of the season because of injury.
Second-placed Manchester City host Newcastle later on Saturday and remain the most likely side to take advantage should United slip up. But they will also be looking over their shoulder at Chelsea and Tottenham, four and five points behind them respectively. Chelsea travel to Southampton while Tottenham are away to Swansea.
Fifth-placed Arsenal, still in the hunt for a Champions League spot, host Reading.DPA