Manchester United go into their midweek clash against Aston Villa a mere two points behind Chelsea.
The Red Devils are in fine form ahead of the game and have picked up comprehensive victories against Burnley, Hull, Arsenal, and Portsmouth in their last four league outings.
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has acknowledged the potent threat that United's attack poses to his defenders, and he believes shutting out Wayne Rooney will be his first priority as he plans his lineup ahead of the game on Wednesday.
Rooney is truly in the form of his life and has already scored 21 league goals this season for the champions, who with 61 goals are the league's leading goal scorers.
Ironically enough, Aston Villa have the best defensive record in the league, having conceded only 18 goals in 24 games.
It's also worth mentioning that Chelsea and Arsenal, United's title rivals, have failed to take all three points from Villa Park this season, and Carlo Ancelotti's men actually succumbed to a 2-1 defeat there earlier in the season.
However, if Rooney has his way, United should comfortably edge past the Villains, who are still in contention for a fourth-place finish.
The fiery England striker has scored at least one goal in every one of his last five appearances for the Red Devils, including a stoppage-time header in a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester City in the Carling Cup semifinal.
Yes, Rooney has stepped up his game to ensure United don't miss the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. But to be excessively dependent on one man might be a little concerning for Sir Alex Ferguson.
I'm not in any way suggesting United are a one-man team, and I do realize that sometimes, certain players are extremely important to their respective teams—as in the case of Gerrard and Liverpool or perhaps even Fabregas and Arsenal.
But unforeseen circumstances like an injury to their talisman or having him go through a bad patch could dent United's title challenge—as it has, one may argue, for Van Persie and Arsenal and even Torres and Liverpool.
I still feel that this is an issue up for debate, so I'm going to leave it in the open: Are Manchester United overly dependent upon Rooney—and if they are, is it a negative thing?
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