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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chelsea hold key in title fight, says Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson is increasingly wary of the threat posed by Chelsea to Manchester United's defence of their Premier League title.

United have a five point lead at the top, but Ferguson has noted the second-placed Blues' stealthy progress under Avram Grant.

With the Red Devils set to travel to Stamford Bridge at the end of next month, Ferguson has identified that April 26 date as crucial.

'I think Chelsea hold the key - especially because we go to their place, where they've got a formidable record,' Ferguson told his club's official website.

'We've established a good lead but we're not taking anything for granted - we have to carry on playing the way we have been.

'I've said all along, the team who shows real consistency between now and the end of the season will win the league.'

United's 3-0 win at home to Liverpool last weekend has given them added momentum for the run-in.

'We've developed this season, and I think you saw that maturity reach its peak in our win over Liverpool,' said Ferguson.

'We've retained last season's consistency; we're challenging for the league - and we're in the quarter-finals of Europe.'

Crown Fergie At The Bridge

United head for Stamford Bridge on April 26 and, if they’ve won the four games before and then beat Chelsea, they can’t be caught. What would make that extra sweet for United fans is that they had to sit and suffer in West London two years ago as Chelsea won 3-0 to celebrate the title on a day that Wayne Rooney broke a metatarsal. United’s Patrice Evra described the remaining fixtures as “seven finals”. In fact, if United win the next five, which includes the visit of Arsenal on April 13, they simply can’t be overtaken. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged: “I think Chelsea hold the key. We’ve still got to go to Stamford Bridge where they’ve got a formidable record.”
Bill Thornton, Daily Star

Fans recognise Rooney

Wayne Rooney has been voted Man of the Match for his commanding display in the 3-0 win over Liverpool on Sunday.

The 22-year-old worked tirelessly as the lone central striker, his energy and movement constantly troubling Liverpool's centre-backs Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel.

Rooney may be lacking a goal that would surely set him on a scoring run, but there's no questioning his contribution to the team.

The fact that he topped our Man of the Match poll, by some distance, ahead of Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, who were all outstanding, speaks volumes of his valuable input.

Rooney, who was in rich goalscoring form earlier in the season (he scored nine in nine games in October and November), hasn't scored in his last six outings. He had chances against Liverpool, but Pepe Reina made several good saves.

Sir Alex will be keen for the Reds front man to find his scoring boots for the remainder of the season, because if he can add goals to his performances then he will significantly increase United's chances of trophies at home and abroad.

Rio handed the armband

United defender Rio Ferdinand will captain England in tomorrow night's friendly against France.

Manager Fabio Capello entrusted Steven Gerrard with the captaincy for his first game in charge but appears to have implemented a rotation policy as he searches for a long-term leader.

Many had expected Chelsea skipper John Terry to be given the nod for tomorrow's clash at the Stade de France, but an FA statement confirmed Ferdinand will lead the side. Fabio Capello will explain his decision at a press conference on Tuesday night.

Ferdinand, who often skippers United in the absence of Ryan Giggs, has played 65 times for England.