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Chelsea pose biggest title threat to United -- Ferguson

It's a long, hot Bank Holiday weekend and the pressure levels in the Premier League are rising like the mercury. Alex Ferguson believes Chelsea are Manchester United's main challengers for the title because they are "stronger" than Arsenal but his message to his players was simple: keep calm and carry on getting results.

His United side are not in the best of form, unlike today's lunchtime visitors Everton, but Ferguson was certainly not feeling the heat. Ten points from five games will guarantee United a record 19th title.

"Some mornings I wake up with aches and pains and I worry what it is,'' said the 69 year-old.

"I sometimes say to my doctor, 'I've got a pain here and a pain there.' He says, 'It's your age, you're growing old.' You have to pay attention to your health when you get older. It doesn't come without penalties.

"Modern nutrition and lifestyle mean people live longer but it doesn't guarantee complete health all your life. I had a pacemaker put in seven years ago. That was the first indication that your body is not working the same as 20 years ago.''

Even if the body is slowing, the mind and hunger remain sharp as he hunts trophies. Ferguson can hear the pounding hooves of Carlo Ancelotti's champions.

"I said a few weeks ago that Chelsea would be our main challengers. Now they are above Arsenal," he said.

"I have that slight preference for Chelsea because their fixture list is a wee bit easier but they have to come to Old Trafford and that's not going to be easy for them. Chelsea are far more experienced than Arsenal. Arsenal are the better footballers but Chelsea are the better, stronger team."

Before kick-off today, Ferguson will remind his players that they have been snubbed for the season's individual honours. Gareth Bale collected the PFA award last Sunday and yesterday Scott Parker was named the writers' Footballer of the Year, pipping Bale by two votes. Nemanja Vidic was third while Ryan Giggs, Edwin Van der Sar and Nani also received a few votes.

"Scott Parker has certainly done a good job at West Ham,'' said Ferguson, who was building up to his annual mention of David Ginola, a controversial choice as Footballer of the Year in 1999. Even after 12 years, Ferguson has neither forgotten, nor really forgiven.

"I remember when we won the Treble, David Ginola got it. He was a nice player, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against David Ginola at all, but I thought it was an insult to Manchester United.

"How can we not have had one player who had a better season than David Ginola? I suppose at the time we still had four games to go, and may had won nothing,'' he added. But United won the Treble.

Their pursuit for a Premier League and Champions League double will be strengthened by Darren Fletcher's return from illness "in 10 days" which could mean he is back for United's May 1 trip to Arsenal, a game that brings out the spikiest in the combative midfielder. (Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent