Sir Alex Ferguson believes 10 more victories would clinch the title for Manchester United, with 84 points "definitely" enough to win it. 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 Wolves this evening.
There are many comparisons to the great side of that historic campaign, Ferguson's observation being that then, as now, the "character of the team" had been "well established" which lends a belief that results can come when the opposition is the most resilient. November's Old Trafford triumph over Wolves, who equalised and threatened to win, proved as much. "The [one] thing that gives them the extra yard or belief in situations [is that] we've found ourselves in the last couple of weeks. They trust each other," Ferguson said.
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 1999, it was 20 wins and nine draws. Their run-in now is tougher, though: eight away games, when they have only won three times on the road.
Ferguson, whose side are five points clear at the top, reflected on the week's inordinate transfer spending, stating that one potential a piece of business – possibly for Southampton's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – had come to nothing. "We tried to do one bit of business this time but it didn't work. Identification is the first thing, and the second is getting the value. That's difficult in today's market. You can be surprised at what has happened but not amazed. The highest transfer outside of this country was £3m. That shows you the gulf with other countries."
Ferguson also said Laurent Blanc's decision to extend Patrice Evra's ban from the French squad was wrong. "It is a surprise because he's been punished already. I don't see why he should be punished further unless they're saying he's not good enough," the manager said. "I know he's the best left-back they've got. There's no question in my mind about that. He got his five-game suspension and I thought they would have moved on from that."
United, who have Rafael and Darren Fletcher back today, do move on. "We've got 30 points to find. 84 points is the target," Ferguson said.