LONDON, April 9, 2010 (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded an immediate response to his side's Champions League heartbreak when Manchester United return to Premier League action at Blackburn on Sunday.
With Chelsea playing Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, United can return to the top of the league by beating Sam Allardyce's side.
|Sir Alex Ferguson (AFP photo)|
United are set to be without Wayne Rooney after the England striker aggravated his ankle injury during his unexpected appearance against Bayern Munich in the midweek European exit.
And although the League Cup has already been secured, there is a real danger of the club's season ending in frustration after last weekend's home defeat by Chelsea handed the Londoners the initiative in the title tussle.
"Three disappointing results in a row isn't something we're used to," Ferguson reflected.
"But it's happened and we've had to face this many times before. Bouncing back is in the nature of our club and is part of our history."
With only five matches left to play, United know any slip-up against a Blackburn side that is usually tough to beat at home could be fatal to their prospects of claiming a fourth consecutive title.
"We've got five games to go and we need to win them," Ferguson admitted.
This weekend could be equally pivotal at the other end of the table with Hull entertaing Burnley in a meeting of the two sides currently sitting third and second from bottom.
West Ham, who are only a point clear of Hull, entertain Sunderland at the same time, on Saturday afternoon, and have been warned to expect no mercy from the Black Cats' on-form striker Darren Bent, who is chasing both a World Cup place with England and the honour of finishing the season as leading scorer in the top flight.
Bent's 22 league goals to date has left him four adrift of the injured Rooney and three behind Didier Drogba.
"There are only five games left for me to get enough goals, but as long as I keep going, then I will give it a go," Bent said.
Manchester City can tighten their grip on fourth place and edge a step closer to Champions League football when they entertain Birmingham on Sunday, a day which also sees Liverpool begin their more comfortable run-in with an Anfield clash with Fulham.
City manager Roberto Mancini acknowledged that, despite his side's game in hand, a place at European football's top table is far from guaranteed.
"We must concentrate 100 percent because we have six games that are very difficult."
Wolves and Stoke, who have both virtually secured their top flight status, meet on Sunday in the final match of a curtailed programme.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)
Hull City v Burnley, West Ham v Sunderland
Blackburn v Manchester Utd (1230 GMT), Liverpool v Fulham, Manchester City v Birmingham (1500 GMT), Wolves v Stoke (1100 GMT)