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Lee Dixon: Winning Xmas will keep United top of the tree

Will the tree have red on it this Christmas?

United aren't unassailable but City need to be better in the second half of the season than they have been so far.

What's it like to miss Christmas with the family because you're on the road with your team-mates? Lee Dixon tells us and discusses how the busy Christmas schedule might impact the title race... 

As a player, I loved the busy Christmas period. Four games in ten days? Bring it on. Away trip to Newcastle to play on an icy Boxing Day pitch? I'm your man. 

The vast majority of footballers love playing. They want to be out there, regardless of conditions or family commitments. Take David Beckham, for example, who recently bowed out of the MLS, saying that his career had never been about the money, it was always about the football. Absolutely, I know what he means. 

Of course, it's tough, especially when you've got young children, if you've got an away match on Boxing Day. But you still get the morning at home with the family before you join up with your team-mates in the later afternoon. By then your mind is on the game.

The best way for players to approach the Christmas fixture list is to relish it. With so many games in such a short period you can make giant strides. For example, Arsenal have won two in a row and they now play three beatable opponents over Christmas - starting this Saturday at Wigan - so if they get some consistency they could end the year in a Champions League spot. It's not ideal, Arsene wants them to be challenging Manchester United, but a few weeks ago, after the defeat to Swansea, it looked a lot worse.

Speaking of the Swans, United go down to south Wales this Sunday for what could be tricky a fixture. The Reds made sure they kept their six point advantage at home to Sunderland but Manchester City fans  - and yes, I am indeed one - will be hoping Michael Laudrup's men can throw a spanner in the title race works.

However, pessimism comes naturally to Blues and I think United can take maximum points from their Christmas fixtures. As well as Swansea, they host Newcastle and West Brom, before going to Wigan where, admittedly, they lost last term. I think Robin van Persie will be licking his lips at those. But it's worth remembering that United suffered an amazing defeat last Christmas when they allowed themselves to be beaten 3-2 by Blackburn at Old Trafford. 

United aren't unassailable but City need to be better in the second half of the season than they have been so far. We haven't seen the best of them and their problems were exposed by a more ruthless United outfit in the Manchester derby. We're almost at the halfway stage and, with RVP showing no signs of letting up, I expect the Reds to reclaim the title in May. City will improve though and the title race could be almost as close as last season's.

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22 December 2012


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