Manchester United looks to Premier League summit

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is too focused on this weekend’s match against Queens Park Rangers to give too much thought to the January transfer window.

If Manchester City loses to an Arsenal side that has already won 5-3 at Chelsea this season, United could overhaul its rival with a victory on Sunday and go to the top of the Premier League for the first time since October 14.

Ferguson has striker Dimitar Berbatov back from an ankle problem but will again be without captain Nemanja Vidic, striker Javier Hernandez and midfield duo Anderson and Tom Cleverly.

But Ferguson said Friday he will only splash the cash in January if a long-term target becomes available.

“I don’t know why people keep going on about it,” Ferguson said. “Unless someone we have always been interested in appears.”

Rafael Da Silva and Darron Gibson could also be available for the match but midfielder Darren Fletcher is missing with the digestive disorder that could rule him out for the foreseeable future.

Injury problems
“We spoke about a virus, to protect Darren but it got to the point people were delving,” Ferguson said. “It was getting uncomfortable so we decided to make it public.

“He has been in hospital for a few days.”

United can briefly forget about the transfer window, injury problems, Champions League elimination and its resurgent neighbour with victory on Sunday. But QPR has lost only twice at Loftus Road this season, with Chelsea, Newcastle and Aston Villa among the sides that have failed to win there.

“We have a good record there and I hope we can continue that,” Ferguson said. “They’ve done well and given themselves a chance of staying in the league by investing and bringing in a few players. It’s going to be a hard game.”

United has not lost in seven trips to QPR since May 1989 but its last visit was in March 1996, just before QPR’s 15-year absence from the topflight began with a demoralising relegation.

QPR manager Neil Warnock guided his newly promoted side to a 1-0 win over Chelsea in October and saw his team go ahead against Manchester City last month before losing 3-2.

Invested
“Queens Park Rangers have invested the right way,” Ferguson said. “Neil Warnock realised that when you get into the Premier League you need big players. That gives them a better chance because it’s an unremitting league in terms of the demands.

“Strangely, Norwich, Swansea and QPR have done well and adapted to the demands of the league. The real test, though, is in the second half of the season.”

But QPR will be without key defender Anton Ferdinand because of a hamstring problem.

City hosts Arsenal on Sunday with almost as much attention focused on striker Mario Balotelli as on his team’s chances of winning.

Balotelli was again pictured fighting with a teammate this week with defender Micah Richards the latest player to square up to the temperamental Italy international.

“He said it was because he didn’t pass the ball to him,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “It was a really stupid thing. It was nothing. After 10 minutes it was finished. I was always involved in problems on the training ground, with Trevor Francis and Liam Brady. It happens.

‘King for this’
“This has happened with Mario four times now. He is the king for this. But it has happened with other players. However, Mario should pay attention, not just about this, but in every situation.”

Arsenal is on a run of seven wins from eight Premier League matches and has won four of its last five away matches in all competitions. But the Gunners are still without Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Andre Santos, Carl Jenkinson, Bacary Sagna, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone, Abou Diaby and Ryo Miyaichi.

Also Sunday, fourth-place Tottenham hosts Sunderland and Liverpool goes to Aston Villa.

On Saturday, it’s: Blackburn vs. West Bromwich Albion; Everton vs. Norwich; Fulham vs. Bolton; Newcastle vs. Swansea; Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Stoke; and Wigan vs. Chelsea.

Chelsea will have David Luiz available after the defender was suspended for Monday’s win over City – the leader’s first league loss this season – for picking up a fifth yellow card of the campaign. — Sapa-AP

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