Unbeaten Manchester United FC will return to the top of the Premier League if they overcome Arsenal FC tonight – but manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not think his team can emulate the Gunners by going through the entire campaign without losing.
In 2003/04 Arsenal took the title undefeated in their 38 fixtures, a run that became 49 unblemished league games until a reverse at Old Trafford the following October. United have eight wins and seven draws so far and a ninth victory would take them two points above current leaders Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC, with Chelsea FC one point further back, and even then Sir Alex's side would have a match in hand.
Yet the manager, whose sole reverse this term was a League Cup loss to West Ham United FC, is not looking to emulate Arsenal's feat. "It won't happen again," Sir Alex said. "The time Arsenal did it they had 12 draws. It was a great achievement but in this league you cannot think for a minute you will go through undefeated."
Since Arsène Wenger became Arsenal manager in 1996, his team's meetings with United – such as that October 2004 encounter – have usually proved thrillers and Sir Alex expects another. "The games, particularly four or five years ago, were so important because both of us were challenging for league titles," he said.
"Chelsea have now come in and it's been ourselves and Chelsea over the last five years. Nonetheless, it's Manchester United against Arsenal and the history of both teams always guarantees a match of intensity and, a lot of the time, controversy. I think Monday's game will be more or less the same because the pride and history of both clubs determines that."
Wenger is unlikely to have captain Cesc Fàbregas fit after a hamstring injury, but is excited by the prospect of testing his side against United. "We have an opportunity to show how good we are – that is what you want in life," said Wenger. "I know that my team will be really up for it, and I always have great belief in my players. I know how hungry they are for success and am sure that will come out in the game."
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