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Di Matteo leaves the war of words to master Ferguson

Roberto Di Matteo was today ready to combat Alex Ferguson's mind games with his own brand of covert psychology as he prepared for their first clash since he became Chelsea boss.

Blues manager Di Matteo played down the significance of the public jousting with rival bosses for which Ferguson has become notorious during his near 26 years at Manchester United.

But he revealed he would resort to fighting fire with fire if necessary as he prepared to pit his wits against the man he admitted was still the best in the business in tomorrow's mouthwatering Premier League clash between the sides.

"If I need to, I will, but there is no need and sometimes it doesn't have to be publicly," said Di Matteo, who Blues winger Juan Mata revealed this week had proven a master of getting inside his own players' heads.

Ferguson has a reputation for getting inside the head of United's title rivals but Di Matteo was quick to point out the effect the Scot's mind games had on champions Manchester City.

"They didn't work last season, I think," he added.

"You make it out a little bit more than it is at the end of the day.

"As a manager, you have to prepare your team as good as you can and then the players have to go on the pitch and perform."

Nobody has done that better than Ferguson in the last quarter of a century.

Di Matteo, who revealed the Scot had not made contact with him since he landed the Chelsea job, said: "He's at the top. He's a very successful manager and experienced manager.

"He's won many trophies.

"I think he's been fortunate as well to be able to work at a club where he's been able to be there such a long time.

"It doesn't happen these days too often."

It certainly does not happen at Chelsea, who are on their eighth manager in eight years under ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.


Asked if he would like to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge for a similar length of time, Di Matteo said with a wry smile: "That would be nice, yeah.

"If you win all the games, there's a good chance..."

That poses the question whether even Ferguson would have survived at Chelsea last season had he won nothing, as he did at United. "Every club is different and every situation is different," Di Matteo added. "You cannot compare."

The Italian has already managed to outwit managerial greats such as Pep Guardiola, Jupp Heynckes and Arsene Wenger in his short time at Chelsea but Ferguson is arguably the biggest scalp of all.

But Di Matteo said: "I won't focus too much on that. I'll focus on my team and what we have to do to try to beat Man United and the way we have to approach the game tactically."