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English Premiership

We are on course

MANCHESTER, December 29 – Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov believes his side will retain their Premier League crown this season ahead of Wednesday's encounter with Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford.
A Wayne Rooney-inspired 3-1 victory over Hull City on Sunday helped United reduce Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to just two points – prior to the Blues edging Fulham on Monday.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stated publicly earlier this season that if his side are that close to Chelsea on the eve of 2010 then he would expect them to win their fourth consecutive league championship and Berbatov agrees.

"I think we are in a great position," said the Bulgaria striker.

"There are still a lot of games to go and it will be difficult, but in the end I think we’ll end on top," Berbatov added.

"We’ve had a difficult time with injuries, but we still have a great squad and players are starting to come back and we will go on a winning run now.

"The boss knows what to do in terms of changing things when he needs to and I’m sure we’ll finish on top at the end of the season."

Berbatov is not exaggerating when discussing United’s injury plight.

They have been short of most of their recognised first team defenders with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Jonny Evans all recently struggling.

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The tide would appear to be turning though for Ferguson’s side as he welcomed back Brown and Vidic for the match with Hull and the United manager believes the return of those two at the back will help United overcome Wigan.

"Hull was a step forward for us," Ferguson said.

"We’ve got the win which is very important as we’re entering a crucial stage, and we’ve got two of our centre-backs back which will make a big difference to us. And they were absolutely magnificent (against Hull)."

Wigan will make the short journey to Old Trafford knowing history is against them.

United have won all 10 previous matches against the Latics – scoring 30 goals – and this season’s reverse ended in a 5-0 away victory for the champions in August.

Wigan’s own form has also been worryingly lacklustre of late – they are winless in four matches, have only managed one point from their last four away fixtures and they have conceded 39 goals in 18 league matches this term, the second worst in the division behind Hull.

A 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day means they hover dangerously close to the relegation zone on just 19 points but the manner of Wigan’s comeback against Sam Allardyce’s side has given Latics boss Roberto Martinez hope ahead of the United encounter.

"For me the (Blackburn) performance is a turning point in this season," Martinez said.

"There are always many things that we could do a lot better but you’re looking at the way we controlled the game in the second half and we created the chances we created, I think it was a key moment in our season.

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"We’re going to go there and try to win the football game," the Spaniard added.

"Obviously it’s going to be difficult. You look at their record at home and it’s outstanding and obviously they’ve got a big squad and they can approach the game in a different manner but we are all excited."

United will still be without Ferdinand and Evans, who have calf injuries, and Neville (groin) although Nani and Federico Macheda could return following ankle and hamstring complaints respectively.

Meanwhile Wigan are only missing midfielder Mohamed Diame, who has torn his medial cruciate ligament and will be out until February.

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