Around the quarters of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, titles and trophies stack up the way magazines do around most of our homes.
He stands at 48 counting league or tournament titles won in Scotland and in those 27 fabulous and fabled years at Old Trafford. That includes 12 Premier League crowns and two in UEFA Champions League. Obviously, that puts Ferguson, 71, two titles away from the milepost 50th.
Ferguson has the 49th hooked and ready to reel in, and it’s a big fish. His Red Devils are running away with the Premier League crown, making good on their make-good mission, atonement for last year’s mini-collapse. In a bit of a un-United-like slippage they let an eight-point lead with six matches remaining slip implausibly away; the “noisy neighbors” from Manchester City sneaked in the rear door and swiped 2011-12 EPL hardware in the very last seconds.
The current 12-point lead with 12 matches remaining could certainly evaporate; stranger things have happened. But given United’s determination, Robin van Persie’s peerless scoring proficiency in England at the moment and second-place City’s less-than-indomitable look, anybody care to bet on history repeating?
So, let’s just think of that one as No. 49 for now.
United has two chances to claim No. 50, and either would be biggies. (As opposed to more obscure trophies or titles claimed in less exalted competitions like the European Super Cup or the FA Community Shield; hardware from those and others are included in the current count of 48.)
United remains alive in Champions League, with a slight edge as the gloriously high-profile series with Real Madrid – we really are talking weapons grade “high-profile” here – moves back to Old Trafford tied at a goal apiece.
The better chance for that milepost 50th: England’s FA Cup.
That’s the bigger picture significance of Monday’s 2-1 win over Reading in the tournament’s Round-of-16 match. Reading’s account was commendable, but Ferguson and United are now through to the quarterfinals, where the Red Devils will face Middlesbrough or Chelsea, depending on the outcome of their fifth-round contest.
Details of the quarterfinal draw are here. The quartet of contests look like this:
- Oldham Athletic or Everton v Wigan Athletic
- Millwall v Blackburn Rovers
- Manchester City v Barnsley
- Manchester United v Middlesbrough or Chelsea