Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

London galling as Manchester United head to West Ham

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson sees no reason why Manchester United should be worried about taking on anyone at present even though they head to West Ham on the back of a woeful run of results in the capital.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo dribbled half the length of the field and crashed home an injury-time winner at Fulham in February 2007 which ultimately proved pivotal in that season's title race, United have made nine visits to London and emerged victorious just once.

Three trips this season have brought nothing better than a couple of draws at Chelsea and Tottenham, so little wonder Ferguson is refusing to look too far ahead in a title race that increasingly looks to involve just one team.

Instead, Ferguson remains focused on the immediate obstacle, which is a Hammers side unbeaten in eight under Gianfranco Zola.

Yet, wary as the Scot may be, after 12 successive clean sheets that have brought 10 wins and a place at the Premier League summit, he sees no reason to live in fear.

"With the form of the team as it is I would be prepared to take them anywhere at the moment," he said.

"I was not aware of the record. It happens. We have had good runs down there in the past. But it doesn't concern me.

"We are in good form so why should we not want to play anyone?"

The 'great period' Ferguson accepts his team are going through at present has raised talk of an unprecedented quadruple, in addition to the Community Shield and Club World Cup that already adorn the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.

Ferguson has only loosely accepted it is a possibility and the spectre of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan hanging over the Champions League holders' defence is enough to keep such talk at a minimum.

But Scotland star Darren Fletcher is at least alive to the opportunity.

"It is definitely possible," he said.

"Nothing is close and there is still a lot to play for but if we can keep everyone fit who knows?

"This squad is capable but we are going to need numbers. It couldn't be just a core of 13 or 14 players. There will be so many games to keep everyone fresh will take a real effort."

United's other problem is that domestic rivals such as West Ham, while not in a position to claim a trophy such as the Premier League, will be trying their damnedest to halt the Red Devils.

The Hammers boast back-to-back home wins over Ferguson's men and also still fondly talk of the two league titles they deprived Ferguson of in 1992 and 1995 with heroic performances in the last week of the season.

In addition, the gloom that accompanied the Icelandic banking collapse and subsequent fears over the Hammers' finances have eased and Gianfranco Zola has taken his side to the fringes of a European place.

The Italian's work has not gone unnoticed by Ferguson, who acknowledges what a difficult test lies in wait for his men.

"Zola has done a remarkable job to get West Ham to the level they are playing at just now," said the Scot, once more crowned manager of the month.

"They are undefeated in the last eight games and have only conceded three goals in that time, which is a fair indication of the work they have been doing.

"It can't be easy in their situation. We have all been watching West Ham's difficulties in terms of finance and having to sell players, so Zola has done very well.

"We have lost two leagues down there so we know how hard it is.

"But if we are going to go to grounds where that team is playing at its optimum you also hope you are in your best form. That is where we are at the moment."

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