Manager on Monday

Alan Curbishley has learned much about his squad this season and is expecting to find out a bit more when West Ham United arrive at Old Trafford looking to deny Manchester United.

As at the weekend when the likes of John Pantsil and James Tomkins underlined the strength in depth at the manager's disposal, more of his players could get an opportunity to shine in the north-west next Saturday. While it may be a first for some, Curbishley is well aware of what to expect. "It is amazing - this is the fourth time in the last six years I have gone there for their last home game - a couple of times with Charlton and now with West Ham.

"We have not got the pressure we had last year but we want to finish as strongly as we can," Curbishley added. "We will see what we have got left this week and will go there and give it our best shot. I think [Manchester United] are used to the pressure. They have got a big game in midweek, we will see how it goes. Some of the players who have perhaps only seen [Old Trafford] on the TV might get a chance, you know it could be another learning curve for one or two of them."

Looking back to the weekend 2-2 draw with Newcastle United, the manager was delighted with how his men performed as they look to hold on to tenth spot. "We have been there for most of the season. As I have been saying all along, the players have done tremendously well. We have only let ourselves down a couple of times. Last week I called for a little bit more appreciation and realism and I think the fans got behind us and understood it. We responded. It was a terrific first 40 minutes."

Mark Noble and Dean Ashton put United in front but Obafemi Martins and Geremi dashed home hopes with a quickfire double just before the interval to leave Curbishley ruing some missed chances. "I think we should have been more in the lead ... I couldn't really see Newcastle getting back. We got going, they played with the extra man in midfield but I thought we nullified that a bit and we always looked dangerous. We needed the third and created enough chances but in the end had to settle for two-all."

With two rounds of fixtures left this season, the manager could not certain about where he thought the league was heading. "I don't think anybody can say who they prefer to win the title," he said. "What happens is if you win it, you deserve to win it. If Chelsea come from behind, it is a magnificent achievement. They have made up some big points over the last five or six weeks. Their resilience has been fantastic. If Man United do it, then I think a lot of people will say they have been out in front for a while and they deserve to do it."

The champions know they will be in for a contest though, having gone down 1-0 to Curbishley's side on the final day last season and lost 2-1 at the Boleyn Ground at the end of December. "Last year was a different set of circumstances completely, perhaps they didn't have too much to play for and we had everything to play for and perhaps it has turned around now," said the manager, who stressed he hoped United won through their midweek Champions League semi-final.

Title talk is all very well, but in truth all that concerns the United boss is how his own team finish the campaign - with attacking displays like that seen at the weekend finished off with three points. "I have said all along this season has been the most competitive Premier League I have been involved in at the top and the bottom ... We have got our own situation to play for. We have got a big stage to play on and one or two people in my team will come out of that next week with a big experience from it."