Sir Alex Ferguson will have defenders Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown available for Saturday’s clash with Spurs and has warned Chelsea that his Manchester United players are “lifted and charged up” by moving to within a point of the Premier League leaders but he also recognised the dangers posed by Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford when he described them as the best team from White Hart Lane he had seen in nearly a quarter of a century in English football.
After beating Arsenal and Chelsea in their last two matches, Harry Redknap’s fourth placed team head to Manchester in what Ferguson described as “championship form”. But the United manager is convinced that Paul Scholes‘ stoppage time winner against Manchester City last weekend has given the champions new impetus in their bid to overhaul Chelsea at the top of the table.
“There has been a lift in the camp this week” he said “there has always been a great atmosphere in our training over the years but then you get a lift like last week and the change is very noticeable. It’s been very competitive. The players are lifted and charged up. I trust them and I hope they can do it for me again.”
With three games to play, United are a point behind Chelsea and also have a minus 3 goal difference, but Ferguson believes it could be a telling psychological advantage if his team can move two points clear by the time Carlo Ancelotti’s side host Stoke City 24 hours later. “Chelsea have a lot of experienced players but pressure does come into it at this time of year. It’s going to be nervy for some players and supporters”
United’s manager was referring to Chelsea’s defeat at Tottenham on the back of Scholes’s late winner at Eastlands. “Last weekend has helped to lift us,” he said. “When Scholes scored I was resigned to the game finishing 0-0. It would have been very difficult for us to win the league after that but we won the game with the last kick of the ball and we have done that far too many times for it just to be a coincidence. We should be applauded for that incredible resilience”
Ferguson however is mindful of Tottenham’s own position as they push for the last Champions League place “Spurs are going for fourth place and I’m sure they will come to have a go. We always expect that of Tottenham and, looking at their form in the last two games, I don’t think anyone below ourselves and Chelsea, possibly Arsenal, have reached that kind of form. What you saw from Spurs against Arsenal and Chelsea was championship form, convincingly beating two of the best three teams in the league”
After this weekend United go to Sunderland before finishing the season with a home game against Stoke. Chelsea’s last game is also at home, against Wigan Athletic, but Ancelotti’s men have a tough encounter with Liverpool at Anfield next weekend. “You have to look at that game,” Ferguson said. “If it was us going to Anfield, we’d look upon it as a difficult game. But first of all, both of us have games at the weekend to address and hopefully we can navigate ours”
Of his own future, Ferguson was irritated by reports that he had decided to retire at the end of next season. “Absolutely not true. Absolute rubbish. That’s a laugh if ever I have heard one. As I’ve said time and time again, the only thing that determines my staying here is my health. Unfortunately for you lot in the media I’m in rude health. You can be left to suffer me. And you’ll be gone before I am”
Will Sir Alex and United keep their nerve in the final weeks of the season?