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United all set for QPR kill

Manchester United will be without Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones as they aim to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League to 15 points with victory at bottom club Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Rooney, who has scored 10 goals in his last 11 starts, has a sinus problem, while Jones injured his ankle in Monday’s 2-1 win at home to Reading in the FA Cup fifth round.

With progress in the FA Cup secured and a healthy 1-1 draw recorded in last week’s trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, United can now re-focus their attention on the quest for a 20th English league crown.

The trip to Loftus Road is the first of five consecutive games in which United will face sides currently residing in the table’s bottom half, before a potential title decider at home to nearest rivals Manchester City on April 8.

With City facing an awkward game at home to third-place Chelsea on Sunday, a United victory at QPR could represent a decisive blow in the title race.

However, having seen his side squander an eight-point lead over City last season, United manager Alex Ferguson has warned his players to concentrate on the task in hand.

‘The only way we can approach it is by taking care of each game and eventually we run out of matches,’ he said.

‘I can understand from Manchester City’s point of view why they are talking about us dropping points. But the fact of the matter is they will drop them as well.’

City have all but given up hope of retaining the title, after a run of three games without victory, culminating in a woeful 3-1 defeat at Southampton in their last league outing saw them fall 12 points off the pace.

They now find themselves under pressure from Chelsea, who capitalised on City’s defeat at St Mary’s by crushing Wigan Athletic 4-1 to close to within four points of Roberto Mancini’s side.

‘If we get a positive result on Sunday, then that opens it right back up,’ says Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill.

‘We’re taking it one game at a time, but we’ll be looking to do that on Sunday.

‘It’ll be a tough game away from home, but if we do get a positive result then obviously second place is within touching distance.’

Arsenal have endured a bleak week, crashing out of the FA Cup to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and then losing 3-1 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but they have plenty of incentive to beat Aston Villa on Saturday.

Arsenal’s Theo Walcott says the only solution is for the whole club put on a united front. ‘We’ve got the best man in the job to get our heads back to where they should be,’ he said.


MANCINI RANTS OVER PELLEGRINI LINK

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini turned the air blue on Friday as speculation continued over his future with the Premier League champions. Mancini signed a five-year deal, worth £7.5 million a year, less than 12 months ago as reward for guiding City to the title, but his future beyond the end of this season is now uncertain. City, who face a tough test against Chelsea on Sunday, start the weekend 12 points behind leaders Manchester United and that gap will be widened, for 24 hours at least, to 15 points should Alex Ferguson’s side win at bottom club QPR on Saturday. In the circumstances, the last thing Mancini needed was to hear reports from Chile this week claiming that Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has been approached to replace the Italian at Eastlands. And when asked about the Pellegrini link at a press conference on Friday, Mancini responded in angry fashion.

‘F*****g hell! I can’t continue to answer (these questions) every week. We have another two months and in two months you know what can happen,’ he said. Mancini added: ‘But also because I don’t understand this. Why would Manchester City change their manager?’


I’M NO QUITTER, SAYS DEFIANT WENGER

Arsene Wenger insists he has no intention of quitting Arsenal despite growing criticism of the Gunners’ boss after the worst season of his 17-year reign in north London. Wenger has been under fire from fans and pundits for much of the season, but the last week has been a new low for the Frenchman as his side crashed out of the FA Cup against Championship club Blackburn and then slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich that left their Champions League hopes in tatters.

But the 63-year-old, whose team have been reduced to a desperate scrap to finish in the Premier League’s top four, says he is not about to walk away from the current difficulties because his desire to do the job burns as bright as ever. When asked on Friday if he had considered his position this week, Wenger said: ‘Never. Not one second. I don’t think that spark has anything to do with your age.’It is just that’s how you are and you’re motivated by how much you want to win and how much you are a winner. ‘If I go out now and play one against one with you, you will see I will beat you and at least if I don’t manage to beat you, I will want to beat you. That will not change as long as I can move.’
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