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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ferguson happy to win by narrowest margin

Sir Alex Ferguson is preparing to celebrate another Premier League title win by viewing a triumph on goal difference as victory for the Manchester United way.

With United and Chelsea locked together on 84 points, it is the 78 goals scored by the Red Devils which gives them the vital edge heading into their final game at Wigan.

And in laughing off a suggestion that he should be bothered by winning the championship by such a slender margin, Ferguson launched a passionate defence of the Old Trafford attacking ethos.

'We have our beliefs and they will not change,' he said. 'We play the game the way it should be played. That is our history. It is indelibly printed at this club.'

Pressure is another eternal aspect of life at United, although Ferguson is convinced his players should have no fear in that department ahead of the short trip up the M61.

While he accepts the TV schedulers are rubbing their hands at such a mouth-watering finale, Ferguson has detected a relaxed air in training this week, with the Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona still fresh in the mind.

'We all have emotions,' he said. 'Sometimes you get a little nervous. Sometimes you get over-confident. That is the nature of the game.

'But beating Barcelona was a fantastic fillip for this club. You saw that against West Ham last Saturday. It was like a carnival.

'Getting to the European Cup final has relaxed everyone and I hope that momentum stays with us.'

Ferguson is ready to welcome Nemanja Vidic back from concussion, although the best Wayne Rooney can hope for as he recovers from his hip problem is a place on the bench as United do their best to make sure the England man is fit for the date with Chelsea in Moscow on May 21. v Even without Rooney, United have the firepower to overcome a Wigan team who should provide more of a test than newly-safe Bolton are likely to do for Chelsea.

Such moments sometimes make Ferguson look back to the early days of 2002, when he abandoned his plan to retire, and wonder what would have happened if he had stuck with his original decision.

'Sometimes I look back to when I nearly retired and it doesn't fit easily with me,' he added.

'I don't know how I would be feeling watching this from the directors' box. It would have been difficult.'

It may be hard to recall now but only a couple of seasons ago United were embarrassingly turfed out of the Champions League at the group stage and were completing a third campaign without a title.

The obituaries were being penned, with Ferguson, chief executive David Gill and the Glazer family requiring patience and conviction in their belief the situation would improve.

'Expectation has to be delivered here,' he said. 'But managing change is the most difficult thing to do.

'A lot of decisions were made about the vision of the club and where we should start to rebuild because, while you would like the players you have to carry on until they are 50, time catches up with everyone in the end.

'The other unfortunate thing is that only you has the patience. The press don't have it and the supporters don't have it.'