ATH­LETIC BIL­BAO (3) v MAN UTD (2) Thurs­day, 6pm – Live on Chan­nel 5

Midweek Sport - - THURSDAY MARCH 15 - By IAN WIN­ROW

DANNY WEL­BECK reck­ons Manch­ester United’s re­turn to the Premier League sum­mit is bad news for Ath­letic Bil­bao.

United moved into pole po­si­tion in the ti­tle race af­ter Manch­ester City’s un­ex­pected slip at Swansea on Sun­day.

And Wel­beck be­lieves Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s troops are in the mood to turn round their Europa League last 16 tie against the La Liga side af­ter tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards win­ning a record 20th do­mes­tic ti­tle.


The United striker said: “I think we’ll get con­fi­dence from our re­cent re­sults, but we know there’s no room for com­pla­cency at all.

“We’re get­ting to the end of the sea­son and win­ning is vi­tal. We need to get as many points as pos­si­ble.

“We are fo­cus­ing on our­selves and know­ing the next match is al­ways the most im­por­tant.

“You can’t af­ford to slip up at any point, so it’s al­ways the next game that’s on my mind.”

Mid­fielder Michael Car­rick said United were de­ter­mined to make up for last week’s dis­ap­point­ing first leg de­feat at Old Traf­ford.

“We didn’t play well enough and we were dis­ap­pointed with the out­come,” said Car­rick (right).

“But it is far from over. There’s 90 min­utes left and we’re con­fi­dent we can do some­thing in Spain.

“We won away from home in our last game in Europe against Ajax.

“We need to pro­duce a sim­i­lar per­for­mance against Bil­bao.”

United will be lifted by Bil­bao’s 2-1 week­end de­feat at Osasuna that pushed them down to sev­enth in La Liga.

But Los Leones are for­mi­da­ble at home. As well as de­feat­ing Paris Saint-ger­main and Loko­mo­tiv Moscow in Europe, Barcelona were held 2-2 at San Mames in Novem­ber.

WAL­COTT is con­vinced his long-term fu­ture lies at Arse­nal – as strike part­ner to Robin van Per­sie.

Van Per­sie is out of con­tract in 2013 and fears are grow­ing he will move to mega-rich Manch­ester City this sum­mer.

The Hol­land striker in­sists he will not dis­cuss his next move un­til the end of the sea­son.

But Arse­nal must de­cide whether to cash in on the player if he re­fuses to sign a new deal – and City boss Roberto Mancini has made it clear he would love to sign the hit­man.

Wal­cott’s fu­ture is also in ques­tion, with the winger’s Emi­rates con­tract due to run out in two years.

But af­ter the Eng­land man pro­vided two as­sists in the Gun­ners’ thrilling 2-1 Mon­day night win over New­cas­tle, he made it clear he wants to stay.

And Wal­cott would love noth­ing more than to carry on his part­ner­ship with Van Per­sie.

“I like to do my talk­ing on the pitch and if I just keep on play­ing well then I will see what comes,” said Wal­cott.

“I like to let my agent deal with that side of things. This is maybe the sec­ond year that Robin and I have had a run to­gether in the team.

“Hope­fully, in the fu­ture I would like to play up front with him.

“That would be fan­tas­tic for me, but if I am set­ting up goals then that

THUMBS UP: Wel­beck be­lieves Bil­bao’s play­ers (inset) won’t be cel­e­brat­ing af­ter United turn the tie around in the re­turn leg

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