United star relishing title run-in

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Gary Neville loves this part of the season the most.

Although Manchester United would not have chosen to head into Saturday's crucial showdown with title rivals Chelsea without Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson's men are hardly likely to abandon all hope of securing at least a draw that will keep them ahead of the pack with five games remaining. Even at 35, the thrill of a title race never fails to excite Neville.

"This is the best part of the season," he said. "This is the moment where you get to the crucial matches and every one is important. You can't afford to lose at this stage of the season because it can have a massive impact on where the trophies go."

A combination of Chelsea's failure to win at Blackburn a fortnight ago, and Arsenal's inability to retain their lead at Birmingham last weekend, has provided United with some breathing space.

It is not much though. And if they are incapable of making light of Rooney's absence by avoiding defeat to Carlo Ancelotti's men, the advantage will swing back Chelsea's way.

The question United fans will want to know is exactly what a 'minor ankle ligament injury' means in terms of time on the sidelines for their best player, and someone who has contributed 34 goals to their surge for glory.

A timeframe of between two and four weeks has been speculated.

The former would have Rooney available for a Champions League semi-final against either Lyon or Bordeaux, should United get that far, and the Manchester derby at Eastlands on April 17.

The latter would keep Rooney out until the penultimate-day trip to Sunderland on May 1.

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Premier League
Manchester United
Gary Neville

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