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Monday, 7 February 2011

Wolves end United's run

So it has finally arrived, Manchester United have lost and ended their 29 match unbeaten run. The way this season has gone it shouldn't really come as a shock that their first defeat came against the bottom club.

Just earlier that day we saw the madness of the Premier League. Arsenal letting a 4-0 lead slip at Newcastle in one of the most remarkable games in English footballing history, Everton and Blackpool playing out another 8-goal thriller and the unexpected classic at the DW stadium where Wigan beat Blackburn 4-3.

But, arguably, the result of the day was the defeat of the league leaders and title favourites. United have never looked convincing away from home during any point this season but they have been able to grind out results.

At Wolves it was different. Despite Nani giving them the lead after just three minutes, United never threatened to score again. It will be a worry to many fans while others will be unsurprised by the result.

It doesn't come as a shock to me, not only because United have been poor away from Old Trafford but also due to the ability of Wolves to up their game against the top sides. They have now beaten Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and United; an extraordinary stat when you consider their position of 19th in the table.

It was a laboured performance from United, they played at walking pace. It was as though they expected to win without having to play well, there was no spark or creativity from anyone. The lapse in concentration for the opening Wovles' goal is perhaps the biggest concern. Had Rio been there then I don't think that would have happened.

But, despite the result and performance, it doesn't worry me. Considering Arsenal's slip and Chelsea's loss, this weekend could have gone a lot worse.

The defeat does now make this week's Manchester derby just that bit bigger. United will be desperate to bounce back and will fancy their chances with it being played at Old Trafford, where they have only dropped two points all season.

It has the potential to be a season-defining game for both sides. A win for United will surely put City out of the title race while their rivals will have edged closer to the magical 19th title but a win for City and things will open right up.

I expect Mancini to play for a draw as he did against Arsenal. While I think United will look to play a 5-man midfield with perhaps Park Ji Sung back into the side following his return from the Asian Cup.

Whatever the tactics, it's going to be a huge and tense occasion with both teams desperate to get one over on their rivals and strike what could prove to be the telling blow in this season Premier League title race.

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