PREVIEW-Soccer-United ready to steal City's thunder again

LONDON Thu May 12, 2011 3:00am BST

LONDON May 12 (Reuters) - Manchester United fans will be delighted by the twist of fate that could see their team secure a record 19th top-flight championship on Saturday, the same day Manchester City appear in the FA Cup final.

United have their own Wembley appointment for the Champions League final with Barcelona on May 28 and UEFA's demands for two weeks of protection for the pitch before that game is why the FA Cup final is, unusually, being played before the end of the Premier League season.

City face Stoke City at Wembley at 1400 GMT by which time the day's league games will be over and United, should they draw at Blackburn Rovers, will be celebrating their 19th title and 12th under manager Alex Ferguson.

Should Manchester City land their first major trophy since 1976 after decades of living in United's shadow, it would be a reminder of the second and last time they won the league in 1968.

Pipping their neighbours on the final day of the season 43 years ago, their achievement was upstaged two weeks later when United became the first English team to win the European Cup.

Last Sunday's 2-1 win over second-placed Chelsea gave United 76 points against the London club's 70 with two games remaining.

Chelsea host Newcastle United on Sunday and their realistic target now is to hold off Arsenal, who host Aston Villa on the same day, to finish as runners-up.

Arsenal are also looking over their shoulders at fourth-placed Manchester City.

City's midweek win over Tottenham Hotspur took them within two points of third spot which offers automatic progress to the group stage of the Champions League.

The team in fourth goes into the qualifying round playoff for Europe's elite club competition.

Manchester United have drawn nine and lost four of their 18 away games -- hardly the form of champions -- but at home they have been all-powerful, winning 17 and drawing one.

"Everyone has said this is not a good United team, that we are not this or not that," Ferguson said this week.

"But we have scored more goals that anyone else, our home form has been magnificent, we are undefeated in Europe, we are in the Champions League final and we will win the league by getting one more point."

There is a huge game at the other end of the table on Sunday when Wigan Athletic, second-last on 36 points, host bottom club West Ham United who have 33.

Anything but a win for West Ham would probably mean relegation while a draw is unlikely to be much use for Wigan either.

Blackpool, also on 36 points, need to win their home game against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday while Wolverhampton Wanderers (37), who gave themselves a good chance of survival by beating West Bromwich Albion last week, visit Sunderland on the same day.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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