30 magic number for Fergie
ALEX FERGUSON has identified 30 as the magic number in Manchester United's attempt to secure a record 19th league title.
Thirty points from United's remaining 14 Premier League fixtures is the priority for Ferguson, rather than the distinction of setting a club record of 30 league games without defeat -- or becoming only the third team to remain unbeaten for an entire English top-flight season.
The unbeaten run is assuming an increasing psychological significance in the journey towards a 19th title, with the immediate prospect of overtaking the club record 29 games without defeat, set in the Treble-winning season of 1998-99, at Molineux this evening.
There are statistical parallels between the two unbeaten runs. United have won 19 and drawn 10 games on this occasion, while between December 1998 to October '99, it was 20 wins and nine draws. Their run-in is tougher this time, however, with eight away games to come -- they have only won three times on the road so far this season.
Ferguson has stated consistently that his team will not end the campaign with a zero in the defeats column, so much so that the subject is deemed unworthy of discussion when placed against the real priority at Old Trafford.
"It's about getting enough points to get over that line for the title," said the United manager. "I think 84 points would definitely win it, so we've got 30 points to find."
United face Wolves, however, knowing that the 12-year-old unbeaten record set by the likes of Schmeichel, Stam, Keane and Yorke -- with more than a helping hand from Giggs and Scholes -- will be surpassed with a positive result against Mick McCarthy's team.
The fact that United are in a position to rewrite their own record books and continue to target the achievements of the 'Invincibles' of Preston North End in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04 is, Ferguson believes, largely down to the current group of players sharing similar qualities to those involved in the club's greatest campaign to date.
"The character of the team has been well established," Ferguson said. "We have young players, but the main body of players has been here a long time.
"They know there are some games where you have to find a solution. That's always been important to this club and it gets recognised that we never give in.
"It's a great quality. I think their perseverance and ability to find solutions has got better as the team has got older. That's what you have to do -- find solutions for problems that other teams give you because teams find all sorts of ways of playing against Manchester United.
"Wolves will be another example of that. Mick McCarthy is a fighter by nature, his team are the same, so we have to find a solution against them."
United's unbeaten run has been tested in the English midlands this season, and Wolves, despite lying bottom of the table, will aim to ensure that Ferguson's players endure similar difficulties to those experienced at Villa Park (2-2), St Andrew's (1-1) and the Hawthorns (2-1).
"The consistency we've shown in the past couple of months has been very good. That's the thing that gives the players the extra belief in situations in which we've found ourselves recently. They trust each other," said Ferguson.
"They look around the dressing-room and there are some good pros there.
"They see professionals who have been round the course many, many times and we're going to need that during the run-in.
"We have a little lead, but that can vanish overnight, so our job is to retain the consistency and relish what we're going to experience. It's a great time for us to play football, knowing we've got this opportunity to win the league."
Ferguson, meanwhile, has criticised France coach Laurent Blanc -- a former United defender -- in the wake of Patrice Evra's omission from the latest French squad. Evra, who is expected to be offered a new United contract this summer, has recently served a five-match international ban following the squad unrest during the World Cup.
Ferguson said Evra's omission "is a surprise because he's been punished already. I don't see why he should be punished further unless they (France) are saying he's not good enough. If they're saying he's not good enough to play for France you can't argue with that, but I know he's the best left-back they've got. I thought they would have moved on.
"Laurent Blanc was a player here and he knows that any player who comes from Manchester United is playing at the highest level.
"Patrice will be disappointed, but you just have to accept it. He's still a very important player for Manchester United and he'll continue to be that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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