Gunners loaded for D-Day

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2002, 12:00am

All eyes are on Old Trafford for tonight's English Premier League title decider between Arsenal and defending champions Manchester United. Arsenal only need a draw tonight or a win in their last game against Everton on Saturday to claim the championship after finishing second to their arch-rivals over the past three years.

But even if Arsenal, as everyone expects, clinch a league and FA Cup double, it won't mean United have to eat humble pie. Seeing them humiliated would delight many a fan, but the truth is United are still a great force in the English game and a second-place finish this season will confirm it.

Since the league re-started after World War II in 1946, no team have ever finished in the top-two for more than 10 consecutive seasons.

A runner-up finish this year will mean 11 in a row for United - beating Liverpool's record of 10 consecutive top-two efforts between 1982 and 1991.

A draw with Arsenal and a win in their final game against Charlton on Saturday would clinch second place.

But it will take another nine years of success before United can really claim to be the most consistent club in the league since the war.

Liverpool racked up an incredible 18 top-two finishes in 19 seasons between 1973 and 1991, the only blip being a fifth-place finish in 1981.

The Merseysiders have won the most championships with 18.

United have the next best record with 14 and Arsenal have every chance of clinching their 12th title this season.

But United are still in the hunt for an unprecedented fourth straight title and eighth in the past 10 seasons.

To do that they need to beat Arsenal and Charlton - then hope the Gunners fail to win their last game against Everton.

Liverpool can only snatch second place if they win against Blackburn Rovers tonight and Ipswich on Saturday - both matches are at Anfield - and United fail to get four points (a win and a draw) from their last two matches.

The United v Arsenal game will be shown live on ESPN at 2.30 am tomorrow (HK time).