Last updated : 15 August 2004 By Editor


"Given the players we are missing I would have preferred to open the season against someone else other than Chelsea. Maybe someone at Sky Sports chose the fixtures!

"You don't want to fall three points behind one of your main rivals on the first day of the season.

"Our record at Stamford Bridge has been so good over the years that usually when we go there we are clear favourites to win, but we certainly won't be red-hot favourites this year.

"They were second to Arsenal last season, they have bought a new coach and a lot of new players, so it will be very tough for us.

"But I just have to put my trust in the players. They proved in Romania during the week that they are capable of producing when the chips are down and we want to do the same at Chelsea.

"Any young coach coming into the game can only hope to have a chairman as helpful as Roman Abramovich.

"When I started in the game I had £2,000 to buy six players. Mind you, that was 30 years ago.

"When I first came to Old Trafford, Martin Edwards told me we had to wait for the season-ticket money before we could get Brian McClair and Viv Anderson.

"Jose Mourinho has come in at the top level with a great benefactor in Abramovich.

"Chelsea are a big club and they want to be as big as Manchester United and they have to spend to get there.

"The only pressure Mourinho is under is in terms of his judgment with the players he has brought in.

"I am just sitting here, like everyone else, waiting to see how it all unfolds." Claudio Ranieri was sacked for finishing second in the Premiership and reaching the Champions League semi-finals last season.

"They will be expected to step up and win the championship and that is another pressure."

Fergie about Keano at the back:

"It is a marvellous option for us. Keane showed wonderful experience and the influence he has on everyone. There were some great performances on Wednesday night and Keane's was one of them.

"It has always been a possibility that O'Shea could become a midfield player but we could not do it last season because our back four was disrupted with injuries after February.

"He was a physical presence in midfield for us and apart from that did very, very well on the ball."

Mourinho (not short of a word or two (hundred)):

"I have a good relationship with Ferguson, I have no problem with him. I’m preparing to play his team, I’m not looking for individual fights.

"It’s not true he didn’t shake my hand after the game in Porto. Yes, he was complaining at the time but he was still shaking my hand. And after the game at Old Trafford, he actually came to my dressing room to shake my hand again.

"United have certain big advantages. They have worked with their manager for many years while the players have worked with the same group — plus a few new signings like Smith and Liam Miller — for a long time as well.

"The third advantage is United have already played a highly-competitive match against Arsenal. We haven’t. Our pre-season has not been ideal. Players have arrived at different times and they have never played together.

"I understand Mikael Silvestre — another key player! — has spoken about United’s spirit and how we have not had enough time to create our own."

"Nine key players? Nine key players out? Phil Neville is not playing? Gary Neville is not playing? Tim Howard, John O’Shea, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes — they are all not playing? Alan Smith is not playing?

"Yes, Rio Ferdinand, Louis Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy are out. Ronaldo makes four. But who else is missing?"

"Heinze? But he hasn’t even played for United, so how can he be a key player?

"I’m sorry but we’re not talking about nine key players at all. I’ve just named seven — and nine plus seven is 16. So are we saying there are 16 key players?

"Don’t say this. You can say they have SOME injured players — like every team. But top teams have to cope with this. The difference between them and the others is top teams have top squads.

"If you say Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth has five players out, yes, it is a big problem. If you say Manchester United have some players out — or Arsenal or Chelsea — you have to cope.

"I just don’t see it as a problem. I can understand Mr Ferguson not being happy because he doesn’t have Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy or Saha.

"At the same time, I’m not happy because I don’t have Tiago and Arjen Robben. But that’s life. All the same, he still has 11 top players — Manchester United always have that."

Frank Lampard Jnr:

"United will come back strongly — they always do after they’ve had a rough season.

"They’ve got players and characters around the club who don’t like losing — but so have we.

"With the squad we’ve got, we have to win something. Our new manager, Jose Mourinho, says he wants to take a trophy. You have to be big enough and strong enough to come out and say that and believe it."

The Sunday Times:

"When Jose Mourinho goes to bed at night," remarked an onlooker at Manchester United, "his tongue gives a round of applause."

The United manager was invited to comment on how Mourinho has been talking himself up: could this be pride before a fall? "Ach," shrugged Ferguson. "We’ll just have to see how that develops."

He enunciated this perfectly, despite suffering from a severely bitten tongue. "The personal aspect doesn’t come into my thoughts," he added. "I’m more interested about new players coming into other clubs than new managers.

"Over the years we’ve had a great record at Stamford Bridge and we’ve probably been favourites most times, but Chelsea were second in the League last year and they’ve bought eight new players this year, big, international players, so it’s not going to be easy."

Normally, Ferguson would relish starting a campaign with such a big game. "Not this season," he said. "Not with the injuries we’ve got. I’d rather have played someone else. You don’t want to be three points behind one of your main rivals on the first day of the season."

Does Mourinho genuinely believe Chelsea can win the Premiership in his first season in charge? "Yes, I do," he replied. "One hundred percent. I have no doubts that we can." Yet in the next breath, he admits that he does not yet know what his best team is (shades of Claudio Ranieri) and agrees with the opinion expressed by Mikael Silvestre, the United defender, who feels his own side’s team spirit is a big advantage. "That’s true," Mourinho said. "They have that spirit, and we have had no time to develop it."

"Don’t go looking for trouble - trouble will always find you" is one of Ferguson’s favourite sayings. Instead of the verbal grenades he often tosses Arsène Wenger’s way, he had only compliments to lob in the direction of SW6. "Mourinho won the European Cup last season and the Uefa Cup the year before that, which is a great feat," said Ferguson. "You can’t dismiss that sort of record. I’m sure we’ll have a glass of wine together after the game."

The Observer:

A crippling injury list may have blunted Sir Alex Ferguson's notoriously sharp tongue on the eve of the season's opener, but the Manchester United manager still couldn't resist the chance to deliver a barb in the direction of José Mourinho before his side face Chelsea today.

Subtle digs questioning whether the level of expectation at Stamford Bridge can ever hope to match that at Old Trafford and out-loud musings about Mourinho's relative lack of experience are par for the course. But recognising the odds are stacked in favour of the Portuguese coach and his expensively assembled side this afternoon, Ferguson has been quick to cling to an asset he believes Roman Abramovich's millions cannot buy - a unique collection of players who have been there, seen it and done it. And remain hungry for more.

Ferguson and Mourinho have developed a nice line in rivalry ever since they first encountered each other during an acrimonious Champions League tie just six months ago when Mourinho was still in charge of Porto and regular sniping throughout the summer has maintained tensions between the pair - though Ferguson insists they will share a glass of wine together this evening. But the United manager unusually finds himself cast in the role of underdog and his anxiety is betrayed by his willingness to even contemplate defeat. "I would rather not face one of our main rivals first game this season, not with the injuries we've got," Ferguson admitted. "I'd rather have had someone else. You don't want to be three points behind one of your main rivals on the first day of the season."


Fergie again: "Everyone came through the game in Bucharest fine and I am pleased at that so I just have to make a decision about who replaces Fletcher. Although he needs games he has been training really well and he showed the confidence and assurance and the ability when he came on, so it wouldn't worry me. It's most likely to be Miller for Fletcher,"

United (from): Howard, G Neville, Keane, Silvestre, Fortune, Miller, Djemba-Djemba, O'Shea, Giggs, Scholes, Smith, P Neville, Forlan, Bellion, Eagles, Richardson, Spector, Bardsley, Carroll, Ricardo.

Chelsea (from): Cech, Cudicini; Johnson, Babayaro, Carvalho, Gallas, Bridge, Ferreira, Terry; Makelele, Smertin, Lampard, Cole, Duff, Geremi, Robben, Parker; Mutu, Kezman, Drogba, Gudjohnsen.


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