Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes that his team’s trip to Swansea City in the Premier League today is the start of a pivotal run of matches.
United came into the weekend six points clear of second-place Manchester City, who were to host bottom club Reading yesterday.
Ferguson’s side then host Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion before traveling to Wigan Athletic on Jan. 1.
The United manager believes that if his team are in the same position when they travel to the DW Stadium, they will have taken a major step towards winning a 20th league title.
“We have every right to expect a challenge. I think that’s what we are good at,” Ferguson said.
“That’s why I’m looking at December as an opportunity to gather points and make sure we are top of the league come New Year’s Day. And if we are top of the league on New Year’s Day, you know well — and everyone else knows well — that we’re going to be in the ball park at the end of the season,” he said.
Ferguson has been impressed by the progress of Swansea, who are now in their second season in the Premier League.
Manager Michael Laudrup has continued the work of Brendan Rodgers, who left for Liverpool in the summer, and Ferguson says United will not take the Welsh side lightly.
“We’ve seen the results Swansea have had and the progress they’ve made as a football club and the way they do it is the important thing for me,” he said. “They try to play and have the courage to play their football, which is good.”
After hosting United, Swansea head to Reading and Fulham before a home game against Aston Villa.
Laudrup believes that beating Villa would be more important in the quest to improve his team’s league position, but he wants to take the scalp of the Premier League leaders as well.
“It’s important to get three points off Man United, the same as it is against Reading, but being honest, I’d rather beat Villa here,” Laudrup said.
“Of course, we would like to win [against United], but it would put so much focus on the club at time where we need to focus on games,” he said.
“So if I knew we were going to get six or seven points in the next three games, I wouldn’t mind losing it. Of course, it doesn’t work like that and we will want to win the game,” Laudrup said.