LONDON - It is hardly the triumphant gallop to an 18th league title Manchester United were expecting a few weeks ago.
A 2-0 victory over Portsmouth on Wednesday lacked the polish and dazzle United fans have come to expect and they trooped away satisfied but not electrified.
It will not worry manager Alex Ferguson, however. For him, all that matters is that United negotiate the next six league games without any hiccups, starting at home to a buoyant Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow.
"That's another game gone and we are in a better position now than we were on Monday," Ferguson said after goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick put his side three points clear of Liverpool, who drew 4-4 with Arsenal on Tuesday.
Liverpool are away at Hull City tomorrow, a match that will finish before United begin against Tottenham so they could again find themselves below their rivals on goal difference.
Liverpool trailed 2-0 to Premier League new boys Hull in December before scraping a 2-2 draw - one of numerous draws against lesser clubs that look like costing them the title.
Hull manager Phil Brown, on the other hand, will look back at that clash at Anfield as the last bright spot in a season that has gone horribly wrong. They have won just once in the league since then and are fast heading for the drop zone.
Chelsea face West Ham United and Arsenal host Middlesbrough this weekend. - Reuters