United strike out in record pursuit

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The Independent Football

Statisticians in search of a new badge for their anoraks should make haste to Old Trafford. Not only could Manchester United today become the first team in Premiership history to complete 100 consecutive league games without a 0-0 draw, but Ruud Van Nistelrooy could become the first player to score in eight consecutive Premiership appearances.

And if that is not enough to get the number-crunchers' palms sweaty, they should pay particular heed to United's starting line-up. Alex Ferguson has made at least one change to the starting line-up in each of his side's last 97 games, in all competitions. The century moves ever closer, disproving in the most emphatic manner that you should never change a winning side.

United have managed to avoid 0-0 results for 99 League games primarily by scoring themselves. To be precise, they have done so in 87 per cent of all their Premiership matches since 1992. Their last goalless League game came against today's opponents, Blackburn, on 12 May 1999 – the day that Rovers' relegation to the First Division was assured. The last club to avoid a 0-0 result for 100 consecutive top-division games was Aston Villa, who managed 117 between 1963 and 1966.

If United avoid a 0-0 today it will be their 50th consecutive game without a goalless draw in all competitions. You have to go back to February last year, to the 0-0 Champions' League draw away in Valencia to find a competitive United game where neither side scored a goal.

United's last unchanged starting line-up came on 10 April 2000, when the same 11 players started away at Middlesbrough in the Premiership who had started in the previous game, away at Real Madrid in the Champions' League, on 4 April that year. The Real game finished 0-0.