Manchester United | When Saturday comes no more

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Football News

Yesterday's announcement that the potential Premier League title decider between Manchester United and Manchester City has been moved to a Monday night for television is pertinent for a number of reasons.

The rivals were scheduled to go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday April 28, before a successful request from Sky Sports has resulted in the tie being switched.

The game itself was already shrouded in an element of doubt by virtue of the fixture schedule for the Europa League semi-final second leg ties - set to be played on the previous Thursday.

With both Manchester clubs still involved in the competition - City progressing from their last 32 clash against Porto with a comfortable 6-1 aggregate victory last night, and United, already with a two-goal advantage from their first leg encounter, set to entertain Ajax at Old Trafford this evening - the Premier League tie may be forced to be rearranged.

If, as expected, United follow their local rivals through to the last 16 stage, Sir Alex Ferguson's side will not play again on a Saturday for the remainder of the season due to their home Saturday fixture with West Brom being moved back to a Sunday.

The only remaining scheduled Saturday match on the official fixture lists for United is their home fixture with Swansea on May 5. However, last month the Premier League agreed to move their matches back 24 hours to avoid clashing with the FA Cup final to be held on the Saturday afternoon.

As such, United, no longer in the FA Cup, will see out the remainder of the season without kicking a ball on a Saturday - but at what cost?

Ferguson has already spoken of his anxiety at the increasing demands on his players due to the heavy fixture schedule, so he must already be considering the potential impact that an unfamiliar calendar could have on his side's title tilt this year.

That said, City will be in a similar boat if they continue to progress to the latter stages of the Europa League, but they are comparative newcomers to the top of the table season run-in, and so may benefit from their lack of experience as the business end of the campaign fast approaches.

Either way, both sides will be going out to win Europe's second tier competition, prompting the possibility of an all-Manchester final set to be held in Bucharest on May 9. But despite the strength of the two Premier League teams, the Red Devils boss is cautious of the other club's in this year's Europa League, and says they should not be underestimated.

"Manchester City are obviously a big rival to us in this competition," he admitted in yesterday's pre-match press conference. "But you have to pay attention to all those teams that have come into the Europa League from the Champions League.

"If we get through this tie, we have a real difficult one in the next round. Athletic Bilbao have a fantastic home record and I would expect them to win their tie against Lokomotiv Moscow.

"That will be a very tough game for us, but you also have to recognise that there are a lot of teams of a very good standard. Neither ourselves nor City expected to be where we are, but we both want to win this competition. It would be a good final, that."

The Premier League title will remain the number one priority for both clubs this season, and with the race set to run right to the end of the campaign, all eyes will be on City and United at the end of April when Saturday, sorry Monday, finally comes.

Manchester United's remaining Premier League fixtures 2011-12:

Norwich (A) Sun 26 Feb 13:30 | Tottenham (A) Sun 4 Mar 16.10 | West Brom (H) Sun 11 Mar (should United reach next round of Europa League) | Wolves (A) Sun 18 Mar 13.30 | Fulham (H) Mon 26 Mar 20.00 | Blackburn (A) Mon 2 Apr 20.00 | QPR (H) Sun 13 Apr 13.30 | Wigan (A) Wed 11 Apr 19.45 | Aston Villa (H) Sun 15 Apr 16.00 | Everton (H) Sun 22 Apr 12.30 | Manchester City (A) Mon 30 Apr 20.00 | Swansea (H) Sun 6 May 15.00 (fixture moved due to FA Cup final) | Sunderland (H) Sun 13 May.

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