English Premiership

Fergie wants an early present

2010-12-03 12:32
Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes winning away to Blackpool on Saturday will give his Premier League title-chasers the ideal platform for the busy Christmas programme.

United lead champions Chelsea by two points at the top of the table ahead of their first trip to newly-promoted Blackpool's Bloomfield Road ground since 1974.

Following a Champions League match against Valencia, they then face Chelsea and fellow contenders Arsenal before taking on Sunderland, Birmingham, West Brom and Stoke between December 26 and January 4.

Although United's 4-0 League Cup quarter-final loss to West Ham in midweek ended a 29-match unbeaten run in all competitions, Ferguson's faith in his side remains undimmed and he is confident they can get the better of Chelsea after losing both their league games against the Blues last season.

Not that the veteran Scottish boss was underplaying the importance of the Blackpool fixture.

"You always want to win those games because I think they’re really significant," he said.

"We've managed to claw ourselves into a position where we're two points ahead of Chelsea, so the game at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal's trip to Manchester will certainly be very important, there's no doubt about that.

"We saw that last season -- some big decisions didn't go our way in the two matches against Chelsea and they ended up costing us important points.

"You're aware that you have to use your squad well because there are so many games, particularly during that week between Christmas and New Year -- three matches in six days is a lot.

"It's a hectic period but we have the players to cope. Hopefully, we're in the right position come the start of January."

Ferguson had Darren Fletcher back from an ankle problem against West Ham and the Scotland international may get another chance to step up his fitness at Bloomfield Road.

Veteran midfielder Paul Scholes is still struggling with a groin problem and Michael Owen, Owen Hargreaves and Antoino Valenicia are longer term absentees.

Blackpool have made a flying start to life in the Premier League, sitting mid-table after being written off as relegation certainties.

Seasiders boss Ian Holloway said going up against Ferguson would be the pinnacle of his managerial career.

"Sir Alex is a living legend. What he has done in the game is just unreal. It will be an honour to welcome him to Blackpool because he is the top of the tree when it comes to British managers.

"The great thing about him is that if he misses your call he will ring you back within 10 minutes. How good is that?

"I admire a lot of clubs but Manchester United have a certain aura and Sir Alex certainly has.

"He gets under people's skin as well because he actually says what he feels and you need that passion. Bill Shankly had the same passion and he started all that great success at Liverpool.

"Sir Alex has matched that fantastic record of Liverpool's (18 English titles). One more and he will have beaten it in his own lifetime, which is just unbelievable.

"Welcoming Sir Alex will be great and probably the highlight of my managerial career so far because it's a league game, not a one-off cup match, and we're playing mighty Manchester United.

"It is going to be a fantastic day for the club and one for the supporters to remember."

Holloway will be without versatile defender Chris Basham, who has suffered a broken leg.

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