- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Manchester United’s resurgence in the second half of the season looks like coming too late to challenge for the English Premier League title.

There could be a consolation prize for United, though: Regaining its status as the top team in Manchester.

United and City are separated by one point and one place going into the 169th Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday - but the teams are heading in opposite directions.

Five straight wins - including impressive ones against Tottenham and Liverpool - have lifted United to third place and above City, which has dropped to fourth in a stuttering defense of its title. On New Year’s Day, City was level on points with first-place Chelsea but has won only six of 16 games in all competitions since then.

While Louis van Gaal is starting to make his mark at United, doubts are being cast over whether his City counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini, will even be in his job for next season.

It represents a huge turnaround from last season, when United was in turmoil under David Moyes and Pellegrini was guiding City to the Premier League-League Cup double in his first year in charge.

“We want to give United fans something to smile about when they go to work on Monday morning,” United captain Wayne Rooney said. “We want them to be the ones to be able to give out the banter to Manchester City fans at work.”

It’s been a while since that has happened.

The smiles have been in the blue half of the city in recent times, with City having won the last four league meetings between the fierce local rivals. Last season was particularly galling for United, which lost 4-1 at Etihad Stadium and 3-0 at Old Trafford.

City’s verve and swagger has disappeared in 2015 and the team has lost its last three away games to fall away from title contention.

“It’s a good moment to go into a derby,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “It’s the perfect place for us to go and try to rectify what we’ve had.”

Before the Manchester derby, there is another huge local rivalry when Queens Park Rangers hosts Chelsea, which leads second-place Arsenal by seven points and also has a game in hand.

Here are some more things to know about the latest round of fixtures in the Premier League:

___

REPLACEMENT REMY

Diego Costa will be missing for Chelsea against QPR - but in Loic Remy, the leaders have an able deputy.

The France striker had a slow start to his first season at Chelsea but has scored winning goals in the last two games, keeping the team in control of the title race and ensuring there is life after Costa in its attack.

Costa, the league’s join top scorer, is expected to be out for at least two weeks after a recurrence of his hamstring problems.

Chelsea captain John Terry is likely to receive a hostile reception when he returns to Loftus Road for the first time since he was given a four-match ban and a heavy fine for racially abusing a QPR player during a league match in 2011.

“In terms of personality, he is obviously thick-skinned,” said Gary Cahill, Terry’s center-back partner for Chelsea, “and that’s why I say it won’t affect him - and it won’t affect us.”

Terry has played at Loftus Road twice since the incident, but not since being handed the punishment.

___

HONORING ASTLE

West Bromwich Albion’s players will don a replica of the all-white kit the team wore in the 1968 FA Cup final in Saturday’s game against Leicester, in honor of its former striker who died in 2002 of a brain condition.

“Astle Day” will be held in remembrance of Jeff Astle, who scored 174 goals in 361 games for the club - including the winner against Everton in the FA Cup final in 1968.

Astle’s family will mark the day by launching a foundation to promote help for sufferers and research of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition usually linked to boxing that sees the brain degenerate progressively because of repeated head trauma.

A neurologist who carried out a new examination of Astle’s brain said last year that his condition was caused by heading footballs. Astle’s family has campaigned for the English Football Association to carry out research into the risks of headers.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide