Manchester United vs Everton preview - Fergie happy to have Chelsea in pursuit

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Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 by PA

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Chelsea's looming presence will help ensure Manchester United do not get complacent during the title run-in.

With Arsenal dropping points for the second time in four days, and blowing the chance to exert some pressure on the Premier League leaders, who themselves failed to win at Newcastle, Chelsea have emerged as the most likely threat to United's dream of landing a record 19th championship.

The Blues have collected 19 points from a possible 21 since the beginning of March, a run that started with their Stamford Bridge defeat of United that landed Ferguson with a five-game touchline ban.

As Chelsea still have to face the Red Devils at Old Trafford on May 8, Petr Cech is not alone in thinking the Londoners can haul back United's current six-point advantage to retain their crown.

Ferguson has far more faith in his troops than that.

And rather than fear Chelsea's late season surge, the Scot actually believes it will push his side over the finishing line.

"It is good to know someone is behind you," he said.

"You have to recognise who is there because we cannot become complacent.

"In that sense we use our experience of years past in situations like this. Hopefully it will get us where we want to go."

In theory, this game represents one of the easier fixtures of the season.

Historians need to trawl back to August 1992 for the last Everton win at Old Trafford, since when they have only managed three draws amid a dire sequence of 14 defeats.

It is 2005 since they last claimed a point, thanks to an early James McFadden goal.

However, after a difficult start to the season, David Moyes' side are top of the form table and even retain an outside chance of landing a Europa League spot, although that would depend on Manchester City finishing outside the top four.

Little wonder Moyes has repeatedly been linked with the United job in recent seasons. And Ferguson is a firm fan.

"It's amazing what David has done," said the Red Devils chief.

"He has had to cope with a mountain of injuries over the last few weeks but Everton have still churned out the results.

"Even last season when he was without Phil Jagielka he still got them motivated.

"What he did well two or three years ago was to use the money he had available to get all his younger players on long-term contracts.

"That created a consistency in his squad which is proving very beneficial now.

"He brings people in to freshen his team up and they are able to do a job."

Ferguson will check the fitness of leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov before deciding whether to include the Bulgarian in his plans.

Berbatov missed Tuesday's goalless draw at Newcastle with a minor groin strain.

Paul Scholes serves the second game of a three-match ban and Darren Fletcher (virus) is still out but full-back Rafael (hamstring) returns.

Meanwhile, Moyes believes Leighton Baines has the potential to dethrone Ashley Cole as England's first-choice left-back.

Moyes has no doubt Chelsea defender Cole is a worthy number one but has been hugely impressed by the progress of Toffees star Baines this season.

The 26-year-old, signed from Wigan four years ago, has taken his game to another level since narrowly missing out on a place in England's World Cup squad last summer.

Moyes said: "I have said many times I think Ashley Cole is the best left-back in England but I think Leighton Baines is just a tad behind him.

"He needs to keep pushing very hard and improving, he needs to keep continuing his work and get better.

"You can see that Ashley Cole over the years has kept going but I think Leighton Baines has been the 'big mover'. He has done really well.

"I think he is getting closer to Ashley but in my personal opinion I think Ashley Cole is probably still England's best left-back."

Everton hope to welcome key pair Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill back.

Playmaker Arteta has missed four games with a hamstring injury while midfielder has been troubled by a foot problem for a month.

Moyes said: "It is not just this game - if we can get them back for Wigan, West Brom, Manchester City and Chelsea in the next four games it would be great.

"Just getting them back around the squad is important."

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