Friday, November 6, 2009

Boss targets Bridge improvements

Sir Alex Ferguson wants to see a return to the days when he enjoyed trips to Stamford Bridge and United prospered with an excellent record.

The last 10 fixtures against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge bear a stark contrast with the 10 that came before them. In the last 10, United have won only once, drawn four and lost five. Before it, the stats read: won five, drew three, lost two. Those figures are undoubtedly skewed by Chelsea’s rise to prominence as title contenders, but still, the boss naturally prefers the earlier statistics.

“We would like to improve our record there,” said Sir Alex. “It’s not been that great in the last few years. We’ve had a couple of draws but nothing more than that. We hope to improve on that. It’s strange, we used to have a terrific record at Stamford Bridge, but in the last few years we’ve let it slip. We have to get our act together. But the players realise it’s a big game and their performance is going to be important.”

Even at this early stage, the game will be discussed as potentially decisive in the title race. Sir Alex doesn’t think it’s as cut and dried as that, but there is a marked difference between going top or being five points behind Chelsea on Sunday night.

“It doesn’t come into my thinking that it's a league decider,” said Sir Alex. “But it could be an important game. Towards the end of the season, you might think, ’I’m glad we got a result at Chelsea’. But it’s difficult to pinpoint the importance of Sunday in relation to where we’ll be in May.”

Nemanja Vidic and Dimitar Berbatov are poised to return for the top-of-the-table clash against Chelsea on Sunday, but there is no immediate prospect of a comeback for Rio Ferdinand.

A calf injury has kept Vidic out since the defeat to Liverpool, while Berbatov sat out Tuesday's Champions League draw against CSKA Moscow after picking up a knock, but Sir Alex confirmed both should be in contention for the showdown at Stamford Bridge.

Ji-sung Park is still missing with a knee problem and Gary Neville is suspended, but Owen Hargreaves is around 10 days from a return to training.

"Vidic has trained for the last three days and should be OK," Ferguson said on Friday. "Berbatov got a knock and we’ll see what he’s like in training today, but he should be fine.

"Rio and Park are both out and Gary is suspended, of course. Other than that, the rest are fit and we’re ready for a big game."

The news on Rio is a concern. Sir Alex admits he is unsure when the centre-back will return from a troublesome calf which may be the side-effect of a longer-term back problem.

"We don’t know where the calf injury is coming from. It could be the lower back," the Reds boss continued. "A calf injury usually means two to three weeks out. But there’s no sign of recovery. We’re looking at whether it’s coming from his back, but in the meantime he’s out."

But Hargreaves is inching ever closer to a comeback from long-term knee surgery and Sir Alex added: "He’s been doing some good football work with our physios and h
opefully we'll get him back in training in the next 10 days. We’re not going to force it, but he is very happy within himself."

United v Chelsea
The game will start at 16:00 GMT on Stamford Bridge.

Written by Paul Grippo, a 'Crazy' United fan
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