LONDON: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes that the
stage is set for his side to go on to claim a record 20th league title.
The Red Devils need only a draw
today to displace rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier
League table - and that is where the Scot expects his men to be at the
end of the season.
'We are in the right place, at the right time and, most importantly, with the right players,' he told United Review.
Indeed, for the first time since the start of the
campaign, his squad are almost at full strength as United enter the
final run of matches.
His defence has been hit particularly hard, with Nemanja Vidic missing the majority of the campaign through injury.
But Phil Jones could return from illness
against the Cottagers, even though Ferguson could still be without as
many as six of his first-team squad.
Still, the Scot will acknowledge that the
casualty list looks far better than it did at other stages of the
season, when they had as many as 11 first-team players sidelined.
'I have to congratulate the players on
achieving the position we are in because of the injuries we have had,'
said the manager, who feels that if his squad were to hold off City, it
would represent one of the club's most impressive achievements.
'It's not been a great season for us in terms
of injuries. The players have shown resilience and we are in the
position we are now because of that.
'Now we are starting to get players back and we hope they stay back because it does strengthen our chances.'
Coupled with their experience and an arguably
easy run-in, Ferguson knows his men have all the necessary ingredients
to retain their title.
Following the Fulham game, United face
Blackburn, Queens Park Rangers, Wigan, Aston Villa and Everton before
heading to City for the third-last game of the season on April 30.
Their final two games are against Swansea (home) and Sunderland (away).
'I think you are better having had the
experience of winning the league than not. But we've still got to win
our games. We've got nine games over the next few weeks - five at home
and four away - and that's the challenge,' he said, noting that United
knocked City off their perch a fortnight ago for the first time in five
months. 'After weeks trailing in second place we got our noses in front
and I am sure our players are ready to put the pressure on again.'
Midfielder Michael Carrick also believes that
United's absence from other competitions means they can benefit from the
'Ideally we'd still be in the Champions League
and we'd be playing twice a week,' he said. 'But the way things have
gone, it means we've pretty much only got one game a week now.
'You'd have to say the situation we're in now
should give us an advantage in that area compared to previous seasons.
It will help us be at 100 per cent for each game.'
United, however, will be without Michael Owen,
Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Anders Lindegaard for today's
encounter, while Nani is still struggling with an ankle problem.
Zdenek Grygera, Steve Sidwell and Orlando Sa are all absent for the visitors.