Sir Alex Ferguson did not want to hear any talk of Devon Loch after Manchester United had got themselves within touching distance of a record 19th league championship.
After yesterday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford, United require just one point from their final two games - against relegation-threatened Blackburn and Blackpool - to take the title. It seems impossible they will fail, although the same was said about the Queen Mother’s horse in the 1956 Grand National and it inexplicably spread-eagled on the run-in, leaving ESB to canter home. “Don’t mention Devon Loch,” said keen racing enthusiast Ferguson. “My dad backed that.”
In truth, he knows United will not be stopped now. Not after they emerged deserved winners over Chelsea for the third time in five weeks thanks to a 36-second goal from Javier Hernandez and a header from skipper Nemanja Vidic. “Knowing the players, they won’t muck it up,” said Ferguson.
This title will have added significance because it will take United past Liverpool’s mark of 18, which has stood since 1990, making the Old Trafford outfit England’s most successful side. “It is fantastic to be the most successful team in the country in terms of championship victories,” said Ferguson.
“But the moment we won that first one in 1993, the door opened for us. To be involved every year after that is an incredible achievement.
“I wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me we would get to this point.”
Derided so often this season, United have hit form at exactly the right time. They carved out half a dozen excellent chances and also had a couple of decent penalty appeals turned down during a one-sided contest that only became competitive once Frank Lampard had struck a goal out of the blue midway through the second half.
“We got nervous because we kept missing chances,” said Ferguson. “It gave them a lifeline. We should have been out of sight. But that is the nature of Manchester United. We take it to the wire all the time. We give these poor souls in the stands heart attacks. They sit on the edge of their seats biting their nails. I was one of them.” It was needless anxiety given Chelsea had to win to stand any realistic chance of retaining their crown and now allows Ferguson to prepare his team for the Champions League final on May 28. “We will give every respect to Blackburn and Blackpool because they are local teams to us,” he said. “They are great football clubs and we will make sure we don’t underestimate them.
“But the next few weeks we will be doing some work on Barcelona. All the tactical things will be about that.”