Sir Alex Ferguson says that the last-minute victory over Manchester City last weekend has lifted Manchester United’s morale ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Old Trafford Saturday lunchtime. The Scot, who denied any retirement talk, says that the squad is in high spirits ahead of the crunch clash with Harry Redknapp’s fourth-placed Spurs.
Ferguson will include Wayne Rooney, who has trained all week, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown in an almost fully fit squad. Aside from long-term injury absentees Michael Owen and Anderson, only Owen Hargreaves misses out with a minor calf strain in a buoyant squad.
Indeed, the Scot says that the atmosphere at Carrington this weeks points to a title-winning charge over the final three games of the Premier League season.
“There has been a lift in the camp this week,” said the 68-year-old Scottish manager.
“There has been always a great atmosphere in our training over the years but then you get a lift like last week and the change is very noticeable. It’s been very competitive. The players are lifted and charged up. I trust them and I hope they can do it for me again.”
United, just a point behind leaders Chelsea with the Londoners yet to visit Anfield this season, have vast experience in Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs in a time of extreme stress.
But Ferguson says pressure is irrelevant to his resilient squad, with the team prepared to wait until the final minute against Spurs to win if necessary. Still, with Chelsea not in action until Sunday United can take a two-point lead in the Premier League with a win on Saturday.
“Chelsea have a lot of experienced players but pressure does come into it at this kind of year,” added Ferguson.
“It’s going to be nervy for some players and supporters. Some players will get nervy, no question about that. It happens.
“When Scholes scored I was resigned to the game finishing nil-nil. It would have been very difficult for us to win the league after that but we won the game with the last kick of the ball and we have done that far too many times for it just to be a coincidence.”
Inevitably, Ferguson is full of praise for Spurs, who are undergoing something of a renaissance under Redknapp. The Cockney manager has taken the Londoners from two points above the relegation zone last season to the verge of Champions League qualification.
“I think they are the best Tottenham team of my time in England,” added the Scot.
“On the one hand I congratulate them for beating Chelsea but, on the other hand, we now face the problems that Chelsea faced and we have to play against them.
“Spurs are going for fourth place and I’m sure they will come to have a go. We always expect that of Tottenham and, looking at their form in the last two games, I don’t think anyone below ourselves and Chelsea, possibly Arsenal, have reached that kind of form.
“What you saw from Spurs against Arsenal and Chelsea was championship form, convincingly beating two of the best three teams in the league.”
Ferguson will likely deploy Rooney in the lone front-man role, with two of Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs and Nani in support from wide areas.
The principal choice for the Scot is in central midfield with former Tottenham player Michael Carrick, Darron Gibson, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher fighting for three places.
A certain starter is 35-year-old Gary Neville, outstanding against Craig Bellamy last weekend, and potentially World Cup bound such is his experience and form.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to South Africa,” added his manager.
First things first – beat Spurs on Saturday.