The Premier League title race is well and truly on countdown now. The saying that titles are only won in May is a mantra that endorses Manchester United's quiet self-belief as the club hangs ominously on the coat-tails of local rivals Manchester City, two points behind the leaders as we enter the decisive period of the 2011-12 campaign.
This weekend marks the beginning of the end as the Red Devils head to north London to face an in-form Tottenham side at White Hart Lane, looking for three points that will all but mathematically finish Harry Redknapp's own title hopes, in a season where Spurs have looked genuine contenders.
Tottenham play what is widely touted as the most attractive football in England and are unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season. Victory on Sunday will be no mean feat. But, United will travel with the incentive that there surely is no better launch pad for their hunt for glory this year.
A win will leave United and City to contest the race for 1st and 2nd in the English top-flight for the first time since the 1967-68 campaign, and with the two sides set to meet at the Etihad Stadium on April 30, that game could well prove the difference between success and failure.
"It's going to be a massive game at Spurs," Sir Alex Ferguson enthused in a recent interview with Inside United. "If we can survive that, then we'll have a big chance of winning the league.
"I would take it [being two points behind City going into the game at the Etihad Stadium]. I would rather go there on level points. But if we could go there within striking distance of being top of the league, I'd take it."
Sunday's trip to north London also concludes a treacherous run of fixtures for United, who have picked up 13 points from their last five Premier League outings, which included trips to Arsenal and Chelsea before hosting Liverpool at Old Trafford.
The forthcoming meetings against West Brom (home), Wolves (away) and Fulham (home) in March are all considered 'winnable games' for the reigning champions, as are the club's April dates with Blackburn (away), QPR (home), Wigan (away), Aston Villa (home) and Everton (home).
It would seem then that all roads lead to City - a mouth-watering Monday night clash at the end of the penultimate month of the season. But first, the small matter of Tottenham.
Still smarting from their 5-2 humbling at the hands of Arsenal last weekend, the hosts will be looking for a response. Redknapp could be without Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale, who are major injury doubts ahead of the tie, and will also be forced to cope with the suspension of talismanic midfielder Scott Parker - his second yellow card during the morale-sapping defeat at the Emirates Stadium renders him ineligible and will be a major boost for the visitors' cause.
As the fixture list continues to shrink, United will embark on their full-scale attack on the domestic crown that has become characteristic of the club in recent years. Titles may well be officially won in May, but beating Spurs this weekend will be a significant step towards number 20.
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