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Friday, February 29, 2008

Sir Alex won't rule out Chelsea

While all the attention on this season's title contest has centred around United and Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson believes Chelsea are serious challengers and should not be underestimated.

Avram Grant's side are six points behind the Reds and nine adrift of league leaders Arsenal. But they have a game in hand and are poised to pounce should the league's two pace-setters slip.

"The number of points Chelsea are behind Arsenal is not insurmountable," Sir Alex told the League Managers' Association website. "The fact that they have got us and Arsenal at home, and their home record is so good, you would have to think they have still got a big chance in the Premier League."

Chelsea are unbeaten at home this season, but they have dropped points at Stamford Bridge - far more than their rivals, too. Arsenal have surrendered four points at the Emirates Stadium this term, while United have missed out on five points at Old Trafford. But Chelsea have drawn five on their patch, losing out on a surprising ten points. Read more...

Evra: Louis fuelled by anger

Opposition defenders beware: Louis Saha is ready to vent his frustration at another season disrupted by injury.

The 29-year-old striker scored his first goal in 2008 in the 5-1 win over Newcastle, and Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson immediately highlighted the powerful frontman as a key figure in the hunt for trophies.

Saha’s fellow countryman, Patrice Evra, strongly agrees and says his team-mate has plenty of pent-up anger to expend.

“We’ve got Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, but we need one more striker to win trophies this season,” he told

“Louis is the right guy for that job. In training he has been unbelievable. He looks sharp, strong and, most importantly, angry. You can see it in his eyes. He wants to do well. Louis is back.

“He has a strong mentality because he has suffered quite a few injuries, but he’s still here and wants to do well. Now I hope his injuries are behind him. We need Louis Saha if we are going to win trophies this year. That’s why everyone in the squad was really happy when he scored against Newcastle.”

Saha could come up against his former club Fulham at the weekend, and will be hoping he can add to last weekend’s strike to keep the pressure on league leaders Arsenal.

“We have got two really important games against Fulham and Lyon,” adds Evra. “If we can play with the same energy as we did against Arsenal in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the league then we have a strong chance of winning both matches and setting us up to do well until the end of the season.” Read more...

Giggs misses out, but Vidic is fit

Ryan Giggs will sit out United's trip to Fulham on Saturday, but Nemanja Vidic is available after overcoming a calf strain.

The Serbian defender was withdrawn after 72 minutes of last weekend's win at Newcastle, but he trained on Friday and is fit for the clash at Craven Cottage.

United will not take a chance on Giggs, however, after he too picked up a calf strain. "Ryan is our one doubt. He’s got a calf strain and I don’t think he’ll make it,” said the Reds boss. "Other than that everyone is fit.

"There is no need to risk Ryan," Sir Alex added at his pre-match press conference. "It's nothing serious and we have a strong enough squad [to cope]. We've got an important game against Lyon on Tuesday, so hopefully he'll be ready for that."

Meanwhile, Gary Neville has suffered no effects from his 60-minute Reserves run-out on Tuesday night. The skipper trained on Thursday and Friday and will continue his fitness programme over the weekend instead of travelling with the team to London.

Mikael Silvestre, who has not played for the Reds since damaging knee ligaments in the win at Everton in September, is also close to making a comeback. "Mikael may join the first-team in full training at the end of next week," says the boss. "Hopefully by the end of March we should have a complete, and fully fit, squad."

The confirmation of Neville and Silvestre's good progress comes at the end of a week which brought news of goalkeeper Ben Foster's impending return from a cruciate knee ligament operation in the summer. Sir Alex says Foster, who is yet to make a competitive appearance for the Reds, is in contention for the Reserves' home clash with Middlesbrough next Thursday. Read more...

Rio: I'll sign up

Rio Ferdinand has begun talks on a new Manchester United contract. The England defender has 16 months left on his current agreement but discussions have started on a four-year deal. Ferdinand, 29, said: “We are on the cusp of something very good. I’ve been here through a transitional period and I can see the fruits beginning to ripen. We have a strong bond and a great bunch of players ready to achieve. The rewards are there to be taken - now is the time to deliver.” Ferdinand, who currently earns £110,000 a week, added: “We’ve done a lot on the training pitch and the manager has worked tirelessly to bring in the right players. So we’re in a position to strike.”
Neil Custis, The Sun