Six hurdles left for Manchester United

It is hardly the triumphant gallop to an 18th league title Manchester United were expecting a few weeks ago, rather they are grinding their way towards the finishing tape like a racehorse in heavy going.

A 2-0 victory over Portsmouth last night lacked the polish and dazzle United fans have come to expect and they trooped away satisfied but not electrified, another three points ticked off.

It will not worry manager Alex Ferguson, however. For him, all that matters is that United negotiate the next six league games without any hiccups, starting at home to a buoyant Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

"That's another game gone and we are in a better position now than we were on Monday," Ferguson said after goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick put his side three points clear of Liverpool, who drew 4-4 with Arsenal on Tuesday.

"We had a little warning tonight and hopefully they will learn from that."

Liverpool are away at Hull City on Saturday, a match that will finish before United begin against Tottenham so they could again find themselves below their rivals on goal difference.

However, United have proved masters at title run-ins over the years and few would bet against them at this stage, especially as they appear to have emerged from March's mini-slump when they lost to Liverpool and Fulham.

They should have Wes Brown back in contention against Spurs which is a huge boost after Gary Neville and John O'Shea both hobbled off against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

Liverpool will need no reminding of their first meeting with Hull this year. They trailed 2-0 to the Premier League new boys in December before scraping a 2-2 draw - one of numerous draws against lesser clubs that look like costing them the title.

The 4-4 extravaganza with Arsenal on Tuesday was damaging, but if they fail to end their near 20-year wait for an English title this season it is the draws with Hull, Fulham, Stoke City and Wigan Athletic that will keep Rafael Benitez awake at night.

Hull manager Phil Brown, on the other hand, will look back at that clash at Anfield as the last bright spot in a season that has gone horribly wrong. They have won just once in the league since then and are heading for the drop zone at an alarming rate.

The topsy-turvy, unpredictable nature of the Premier League could have some more shocks left this season, though and Brown believes his side can stay above the bottom three.

"We're still outside the bottom three and before the season everybody had us down to finish 20th," Brown told the club's website. "I still think we can scrap for the points we need.

"We have the belief that we can get back to the form we were showing earlier in the season."

Chelsea and Arsenal are also in action at the weekend, although their title challenges are effectively over.

Chelsea, six points behind United in third place having played a game more, face West Ham United while Arsenal, who are 12 points adrift of Ferguson's team, host Middlesbrough.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible