United aim to silence City for another season

LONDON - The "noisy neighbours" have been generally a bit quieter in recent weeks and should Manchester United beat Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday their title claims will be just about silenced.

United lost their first league game of the season last week to bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers but with Arsenal drawing and Chelsea losing, their position at the top of the Premier League was barely affected.

City did manage a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion but they remain in third place on 49 points, one behind Arsenal and five behind United having played a game more than the top two.

Since Ferguson made his "noisy neighbours" comment in September 2009 in the wake of United's last-gasp 4-3 league win, City have continued to invest heavily in their playing squad but are still somewhat on the outside looking up.

MOST SUCCESSFUL

Their wait for a first title since 1968 looks certain to go on for at least another year while United are closing in on a record 19th - the tally Ferguson has long targetted to "knock Liverpool off their perch" as the country's most successful club in its domestic league.

United still have to play Chelsea home and away and to visit Arsenal so the title is far from in the bag but three points on Saturday brings it a little closer.

"It's a terrific game for us now," Ferguson told MUTV.

"It's a massive game that we've got to look forward to. Unfortunately we have got international matches in midweek which in my view is crazy, but we have to get on with it.

"We have got plenty of players who will not be involved in internationals and will play. The ones that travel we have to give consideration to the fact that they have been travelling before they play at lunchtime on Saturday."

Wayne Rooney, starting to look more like the player who tore up the league a year ago, came through unscathed from his 45 minutes' duty in England's 2-1 win in Denmark but Ferguson will wait nervously by the phone for any other negative reports.

City, of course, face similar demands on their multinational squad, though Carlos Tevez should be fresh having been left out of Argentina's game against Portugal in Geneva because of "attitude problems".

After their remarkable 2-1 win over United last week Wolves could hardly have had a tougher follow-up - away to Arsenal.

Having blown a 4-0 first-half lead to draw 4-4 at Newcastle United last week Arsene Wenger's team are unlikely to be anything like as generous a second time.

Chelsea are not in action until Monday when they visit Fulham, giving Tottenham the chance to climb three points ahead of them into fourth place if they can win at Sunderland.

Sixth-placed Liverpool, on a run of four wins and four clean sheets, have a good chance of making it five of both at home to Wigan Athletic.

Should they do so the team who were 12th and three points above the relegation zone when Kenny Dalglish took over just a month ago, could move within three points of Chelsea.