Manchester United vs Chelsea preview - Ferguson never expected longevity

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Posted Sunday, May 08, 2011 by PA

Manchester United vs Chelsea preview - Ferguson never expected longevity

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he could never have imagined still being Manchester United manager now when he replaced Ron Atkinson in 1986, let alone be standing on the brink of an historic 19th league championship.

Ferguson is convinced his side will clinch the title if they beat Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, even though they would still require a point from their final two games against Blackburn and Blackpool.

That would allow them to move past Liverpool as England's most successful club, a situation that seemed impossible when the Merseyside outfit boasted an 18-7 advantage before the first of Ferguson's title triumphs in 1993.

"I didn't envisage it at that time," said the United boss. "I couldn't have envisaged being here that long anyway.

"The aim at the time was to match them and then be successful ourselves.

"I came to win that title. Once we won it the club took off.

"It has been an exceptional period of time but getting the first one was always going to be the target."

As Ferguson knows only too well, there is no point spending much time thinking about it at present because if Chelsea happened to win, United would no longer be top of the table.

They would still have two games to try and turn a goal difference shoot-out back their way but after losing a 15-point lead, which they held heading into the Stamford Bridge meeting between the sides in March, it could be that they are too traumatised to respond.

Little wonder Ferguson is putting so much store by what happens at Old Trafford and giving no thought at all as to how all those points have been whittled away.

"It doesn't matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago, four years ago," he said. "We are where we are.

"We have three games left. We are three points ahead with same goal difference. We are playing at home. Nothing can change it."

Ferguson can console himself with the knowledge that all the points Chelsea have clawed back have come away from Old Trafford, where United have dropped just two points - to West Brom in October - all season.

"Our home record is probably the best in Europe," said Ferguson.

"Maybe because our away record has been ordinary, the players have felt the need to step up to the mark at home.

"People still criticise us for not being great this season but we have scored more goals than anyone else, so we must be doing something right."

Wayne Rooney will return to the United side for the Premier League title showdown.

Rooney has recovered from a minor hamstring strain while central defensive duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are also set to be reinstated to the starting XI having been rested for Wednesday's Champions League win over Schalke.

Carlo Ancelotti has claimed Chelsea hold the mental edge - because Ferguson's men never saw them coming.

The Blues travel to Old Trafford on the brink of completing the greatest comeback in Premier League championship history, storming to within three points of United having been 15 behind just over two months ago.

They were in danger of falling 18 adrift when they were 1-0 down to Ferguson's side at Stamford Bridge on March 1 but turning around that game has sparked a run of 25 points from the last 27.

And that has caught United napping, according to Chelsea boss Ancelotti.

"Man United hoped they wouldn't have to play this kind of game against us," said the Italian, whose side will go top for the first time since November if they win.

"If they'd had more of an advantage, it could have been an easy game against us - not easy, but a different game.

"They have to fight again for the title. Maybe two or three weeks ago, they didn't think in this game they'd need to fight so much.

"Mentally, for this reason, we can have an advantage."

Ancelotti has no new injury concerns. The Italian's biggest decision will therefore be whether to play both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres up front.

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