Manchester United-Cardiff City Preview

The Associated Press

Manchester United will try to extend their unbeaten run to ten matches when they meet Cardiff City for the first time in over 38 years on Sunday.

The Red Devils are already aiming for the top of the Premier League, but despite their tremendous turnaround, there's still plenty of work ahead.

United (6-2-3) may be the reigning Premier League champions, but they've struggled to live up to that status in their first season under David Moyes.

Beginning the league season with two wins from their opening six matches left Manchester United wallowing toward the bottom of the table, with Moyes taking the brunt of the criticism.

It didn't take long for that to change dramatically.

United have won six and drawn three of their past nine matches in all competitions, and have gone five games unbeaten in the league to put themselves back among the title contenders. They legitimised that title claim with a 1-0 victory over table topping Arsenal just before the international break, and that has only fueled their determination to return to the top of the table in time for the start of 2014.

"That's our aim - to still be up there and maybe top or in or around there come the New Year. Then, hopefully, we can kick on," Wayne Rooney told the team's official website.

Rooney will likely be a major factor in United making a run at the top. The superstar forward has five goals in his last eight games - scoring two while assisting two others in his past three matches - and the England international's corner in the 27th minute against the Gunners found an unmarked Robin van Persie, who scored against his former club to give him one goal in each of the past four matches.

Van Persie - among the league top-scorers with seven goals - got the final strike for Arsenal in a 4-0 win over Cardiff City in the FA Cup on Feb. 16, 2009. United, though, haven't met the Welsh club since winning both meetings in the second division in 1974-75.

Cardiff City (3-3-5) are near the drop zone, but they're looking to record shock wins over both Manchester clubs at home this season. They stunned Manchester City 3-2 on Aug. 25, but they have managed just one win and two goals in their four home matches since that result.

The Bluebirds struggled again in the final third during their most recent fixture on Nov. 9, losing 2-0 on the road to Aston Villa while managing only two shots on target.

Cardiff have been restricted to just three goals during their last five games, and no member of the squad has mustered more than two efforts on target since the start of the season. That's not likely to change against United, who have allowed a meagre one goal in four games.

The Welsh side's talisman, Craig Bellamy, is still seeking his first goal of the season, and the omens aren't good - he's been kept off the score sheet in his past five meetings with United.

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