Fergie's Chelsea challenge: end the 10-year wait for victory at the Bridge
Alex Ferguson has challenged Manchester United to end their 10-year search for a Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
Ferguson (right) is demanding that his players deliver a signal of intent in what he believes has already become a three-horse race for the title.
United last claimed all three points at Chelsea with a 3-0 win in April 2002. Roman Abramovich might have seen Ferguson's team deny him a Champions League title in Moscow in 2008, but when it comes to league business, Chelsea's Russian owner has still to see United spoil an afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
United's rivals have come and gone during Ferguson's 26-year reign as manager, but none have been a source of irritation to the Scot quite like Chelsea.
Even when the current European champions were little more than First Division also-rans at the outset of Ferguson's Old Trafford career, Chelsea's ability to prove a thorn in United's side was already well established.
"They have had a terrific record against us since I came in and even before that," Ferguson said. "I am almost certain that when Brian McClair scored against Chelsea in a game on the August Bank Holiday in 1987, it was the first time we had beaten them at Old Trafford for about 16 years (actually the first in the league since September 1965).
"They have enjoyed a good record against us and it's an amazing record (at Stamford Bridge), but it'll change sometime -- hopefully on Sunday."
Until the emergence of Manchester City in recent seasons, with owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan taking the Abramovich blueprint to a new financially imposing level, the two most important fixtures in a Premier League season since the turn of the century have regularly been those played out between United and Chelsea.
In the 2009/10 season, Chelsea's league double over United proved decisive in their title success, while United's 2-1 win at Old Trafford in May 2011 settled that campaign's title race in the their favour.
But having been caught out at a private function in South Africa in July 2006 claiming that Chelsea, fuelled by petrodollars and with an insatiable appetite for expensive signings, were 'hell-bent on ruining football', Ferguson ultimately turned the tables on Abramovich and Jose Mourinho by surpassing the London club.
That triggered the upheaval at Stamford Bridge which means Roberto Di Matteo is the eighth manager under the Abramovich regime.
Chelsea remain the only club to have a positive overall record against United in the Premier League era, however, and Ferguson, who will be without Japanese midfield Shinji Kagawa for a month with a knee injury, admits they continue to be daunting opponents.
"Even when Claudio Ranieri was manager, they had a good squad of players," Ferguson said. "It is always a very difficult game against Chelsea, it's never easy.
"They are top of the league and have had a great start to the season.
"Apart from last season, the previous six or seven seasons have been about us and Chelsea, so that gives you an idea of how we will approach this game. It's going to be a hard one.
"Last season, we did really well to rescue the game from 3-0 down. In the main, I don't think we've played badly (at Chelsea).
"The games that we've lost, not last year, but in the years before that, we actually played well only to get bad decisions against us."
With defeats against Everton and Tottenham already this season, Ferguson, who believes the suspension of John Terry is a "loss" for Chelsea, admits United cannot afford another reverse this weekend.
"You don't want a gap to open," he said. "It could be a league in which you will suffer if you lose bad ones.
"We couldn't afford to lose the Tottenham one the way we did and if we get any more of that, we will be in trouble.
"There are lot of big games still to come of course, but I think it will be close.
"I think Chelsea, City and ourselves are creating that little gap from the rest.
"Our game on Sunday will be important to us, there is no doubt about that.
"The way the league is now, any one of the three could win it, there is no doubt about that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)