Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has set his high-flying team a record target for this season.
United lead cross-town rivals Manchester City by 15 points with just nine games remaining and most pundits have suggested the title race is already over.
However, rather than take their foot off the gas, Ferguson wants his team to chase Chelsea’s record Premier League points haul.
“The record is 95 points by Chelsea,” Ferguson told Sirius XM. “If we get to 95 points I would be absolutely delighted. That would be a fantastic season, and if we do get to that position, we have probably won the league.”
United only need four wins and a draw to claim a record 20th championship and end City’s brief reign as English soccer’s top dogs.
The current mark was set by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 1995, and the Red Devils need seven wins and a draw from their final nine matches to surpass it.
That may be a tough ask, but United are at least well on their way to eclipse another record, their 18-point winning margin in 2000.
A victory against City in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on April 8 would be enough to stretch out their current advantage to that level, while also reducing the number of points they would need to tie up the title.
However, such domination was far from Ferguson’s thoughts when the season kicked off in August.
“With Manchester City coming on the scene in the last couple of years, and Chelsea and Arsenal and Tottenham, you have teams vying for that top-four position,” Ferguson said.
“I expected it to be really tight. The first point was that after last season, we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose it on goal-difference and that has improved markedly,” he said. “But I never thought we would be 15 points clear at this stage of the season.”
It has given Ferguson some leeway with his selections over the Easter weekend, when United find themselves pitched into two key games in the space of 48 hours.
Following Saturday’s lunchtime trip to Sunderland, the Red Devils must prepare for Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
As one of the players not being troubled by international duty, Rio Ferdinand can expect significant involvement following his controversial trip to Qatar, while Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Anderson should also be fresh.
“Every coach is praying that their players come back fit,” Ferguson said. “I have to make sure I have some freshness in the team because we also have Chelsea on Monday lunchtime.”
“It is a big ask for our squad and something we need to concentrate on because I need to make sure I pick the right teams,” he said.
Giggs has a significant role to play, having capped his return to form by signing yet another contract extension that will take him past his 40th birthday.
Ferguson does not believe it will end there for the remarkable Welshman, who is set to claim his 13th title winner’s medal.
“Ryan is an exceptional human being,” Ferguson said.
“He has never carried any weight, has never suffered a serious injury and never misses a training session. He is still at the head of the pack in the pre-season,” he added.
“He just has this insatiable appetite to continue playing,” the Scot said. “He will play next year and, who knows, he could possibly play for another year after that.”
“I am sure he will get to 41 and still be playing because he is such a fit lad,” he said.