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History driving us on: Ferguson

MANCHESTER United manager Alex Ferguson believes that his players are being driven on by an insatiable desire to become history-makers as the club inch closer to setting a remarkable series of records this season.

Fulham visit Old Trafford tomorrow as United resume their hunt to become the first English club to win four successive top-flight championships and an unprecedented 19th in total.

Having overcome AC Milan to reach the last eight of the Champions League, they are also on course to become the first team to reach three consecutive finals in the tournament's modern guise.

It is a scenario almost as unthinkable for Liverpool supporters as the prospect of failing to finish in the top four.

United equalled the Merseyside club's treasured haul of 18 league titles last season, but Ferguson has already trained his sights on surpassing his rivals.

"The record we are chasing is four titles in a row -- that would be fantastic," he said. "And if we get the nineteenth, it would be the most in the league's history. It doesn't matter who we beat for that, it is a record. And a record is a record. We've got a chance."

Although Ferguson has urged his players not to get carried away by the 4-0 win at home to Milan on Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie -- "We have to calm ourselves down," he said -- the manager believes that the gritty 1-0 victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend bore all the hallmarks of champions.

"Last Saturday against Wolves was for me the best indication of our chances," he said. "We've had those kind of games over the years, where the players are prepared to battle it out against a determined team."

Ferguson's belief has also been strengthened by the sight of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic returning to central defence after a season blighted by injury, while Ryan Giggs, the midfield player, will be available for the league game against Liverpool at Old Trafford a week tomorrow.

"When I see the two of them together, there is a sense of security that we have been fighting to get all season," he said of Ferdinand and Vidic. "That, and Edwin van der Sar (the goalkeeper) coming back has a galvanising effect. With those three back, it makes an unbelievable difference. Pray to the Lord, they stay fit for the rest of the season. Having them back definitely gives us a big chance."

Ferguson said that he expects Paul Scholes, the midfield player, and Gary Neville, the defender, to be still playing for United next season, even though neither has been offered a new contract yet, and said that Owen Hargreaves "has to" make his long-awaited comeback against Burnley in the reserves on Thursday after more than 16 months out with tendinitis.