Man United manager wary of Chelsea threat

AFP, Sunday 18 Sep 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Chelsea still represent one of Manchester United's sternest challengers for the Premier League despite manager Andre Villas-Boas's relative lack of experience

Alex Ferguson
Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

The spotlight has been off Chelsea, who have been challengers for the last seven years, and switched closer to home with Manchester City joining near-neighbours United at the top of the Premier League.

But Ferguson says the focus and publicity being away from the Londoners will suit Villas-Boas down to the ground.

The top-flight’s youngest coach would have been boosted by the settling in period as he finds his feet in his new home.

And although the 33-year-old former Porto manager faces his biggest challenge yet when he faces Ferguson on Sunday, the Manchester United manager anticipates his side will still be taking on one of their biggest rivals to their crown.

"They will be there at the end of the season, there is no doubt about that," Ferguson said.

"At the moment, of course, the two Manchester teams are enjoying the publicity that comes from the predictions that they are going to be involved in the winning of the league.

"In the background lurks Chelsea. They don't need the publicity. They will be enjoying being out of the profile at the moment."

Ferguson has praised Villas-Boas for adapting to his new surroundings at one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Having replaced Carlo Ancelotti after arriving from Porto in the summer, Ferguson believes he has already left his mark on his new team.

"The new coach has started very well. For a young man who has come to Chelsea, it is a great challenge," he said.

"It is a hard challenge at his age but when you go to a new club, you hope you get an immediate response. He has got that."

"They are a team with great experience and they will always be a challenge to us.

"But it will be a fantastic game. The games between both sides over the last seven years have been very close affairs. There is usually just one goal in it and it will be very tight again."

Ferguson has reported no fresh injury concerns from their Champions League game in Benfica, with captain Nemanja Vidic (calf), Tom Cleverley (foot) and Rafael (shoulder) still out, while Danny Welbeck is not yet ready to return.

Villas-Boas, meanwhile, has attempted to distance himself from the idea that this fixture will lay down a marker in the title race.

Chelsea are two points behind the Manchester duo after four games, but Villas-Boas makes the point that there are still 32 matches left in the season.

"It's early. In my small experience in this life, and observing the behaviour of the Premier League table, it won’t be determinate for the table," he said.

"Whatever happens in the game is not decisive because of the ‘pattern’. If you focus on statistics and you can see how many points United were behind Newcastle 10 or 15 years ago, or Chelsea were last season.

"It's the fifth game of the season, and it’s still early. Any manager who is judged after five games of a season, there’s not something wrong with the manager but something wrong with the people who run clubs."

Villas-Boas, who is still without striker Didier Drogba but will welcome back Frank Lampard and John Terry to the starting line-up after resting them for the Champions League fixutre on Tuesday, added: "We have made a good, strong start in the Premier League.

"This game comes at a good time for us. Both teams feel very motivated and strong, so hopefully this will be enough for the spectacle to be excellent, which all of us should hope for."

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