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Ferguson slams retirement talk ahead of title endgame

Alex Ferguson has dismissed speculation he will retire as Manchester United manager at the end of this season.

If his team beat Chelsea this afternoon they will all but guarantee a record 19th title for Manchester United and Ferguson has the opportunity to win a third Champions League against Barcelona at Wembley on May 28.

Asked if he thought winning those trophies would be the perfect opportunity to quit while at the top, Ferguson said, "Are we going on this again? "I'll be here next year, how's that?"

In 2008, Ferguson said he thought he would work for three more years. This season, though, he has been as enthusiastic on the touchline and as combative as ever despite the fact that he will turn 70 in December.

Having announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2002 season, Ferguson changed his mind and has not looked back. He has said that his health would dictate when he would quit.

United lead Chelsea by three points with three games left going into today's Old Trafford match and Ferguson, having watched Carlo Ancelotti close the gap from 15 points, says it would be an "astonishing decision" to sack him.

On reports that Ancelotti could lose his job even if he retained the title, Ferguson said, "You can't understand a lot of things that happen in football today and that would be an astonishing decision. He really does deserve credit.

"The guy has won two European titles, the Scudetto, the Double with Chelsea and you can't question that record."

Ancelotti only wants to avoid having to watch United celebrate in front of his players. "We don't want to see the celebrations of United. Maybe if they have to win the title, maybe they have to postpone them to the next game."

Ancelotti believes Chelsea and Manchester United have run out of ways to surprise each other. The sides meet for the fifth time this season and for the fourth in just over two months for a match which will almost certainly decide the destiny of the championship.

Never before have the two clubs gone head to head so often during a single campaign, with the pair contesting the Community Shield and Champions League quarter-final as well as the Premier League.

Such familiarity can often breed contempt -- as Barcelona and Real Madrid found out. But Ancelotti feels Chelsea and United's problems today will be more straightforward than that, especially as his only real selection dilemma appears to be whether or not to start with Fernando Torres.

"I think that Chelsea and Manchester United don't have secrets," he said. "They know very well every aspect of their football and their skills. They know us, we know them. I learned that (Wayne) Rooney is the key player for United, and also (Ryan) Giggs against us was the best player."

Such familiarity may play into the hands of United, who do not need to win the game to retain their stranglehold on the destiny of the title.

Despite the sensational late-season surge that has seen Chelsea close to within three points from 15 adrift in a little over two months, only victory will do for the visitors.

Ancelotti's side had looked like running away with the title back in October but their worst run in the league for almost 15 years could still end up costing them dear.

"If I have to think about our season, it was not so good," admitted Ancelotti.

"Our bad moment was too long, I think. We could do better there. But now, destiny has helped us to fight for the title again."

Providence too, judging by last weekend's results, which saw Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-1 with two goals that never should have stood and United lose 1-0 at Arsenal.

"If Arsenal didn't win that game, it would be a different atmosphere around our game. The turning point was Arsenal and our victory against Tottenham."

That might have been the moment the title race was blown wide open, but it was certainly not the turning point in Chelsea's season.

That arguably came after last month's Champions League defeat against United, when the Blues fought back from a goal down to win at West Brom. They have not looked back since, taking maximum points from the next three games.

Chelsea won the corresponding fixture late last season, a victory which ultimately saw them win the title. United have been unbeaten in the league at Old Trafford since that day, and have dropped just two points there this season.

"It's time to win," said Ancelotti, who will give his players the same team talk he used last season. "It's always the same message to prepare for this game. Be calm, relax, and believe in yourselves. There is not a lot else to do. The players are motivated themselves. The problem is the fear. Being afraid -- to lose energy being too afraid."

Sunday Indo Sport