Rival managers step up Premier League mind games
MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho stepped up their war of words yesterday, each insisting their side h a s c o n t r o l o f t h e i r Premiership destiny.
United are four points clear after a 3-1 Boxing Day win against Wigan, followed by second-placed reigning champions Chelsea who dropped points in a surprise 2-2 drawat home to Reading.
But, in what he expects to be a tight race, Ferguson believes goal difference could play a key role in deciding this season’s title.
Such has been United’s attacking form this season that, even were Chelsea to drawlevel on points, they would in all likelihood still be behind the leaders.
Ferguson’s men have a huge goal-difference advantage of 13 over Chelsea who have scored 35 league goals so far this season compared to United’s 44.
Not since 1989 has the English title race been decided on goal difference when Arsenal’s dramatic win away to Liverpool on the final day of the season saw them climb above the Merseysiders.
‘‘The goal difference helps us, there is no doubt about that,’’ Ferguson said.
‘‘I have always believed in those terms, 10 or 12 goals makes a point. If it remains that way it is something we have to fall back on. Hopefully we won’t have to, but it is there anyway.’’
Mourinho, meanwhile, insisted United’s lead was ‘no drama’ for his side.
For nowthe Portuguese coach is just happy to keep in touch with United as they continue the busy holiday program without the injured quartet of Petr Cech, John Terry, Joe Cole and Arjen Robben.
‘‘Right now, we are surviving because the distance to Manchester United is four points and that is not a drama,’’ Mourinho said.
‘‘I keep saying three points can be solved when we play United. But we are in a difficult situation, although I think we can survive.
‘‘We’re in the (last) 16 of the Champions League, semi-finals of the Carling (League) Cup, we start the FA Cup next month and in the Premiership we are four points behind the leaders with 18 matches to play.
‘‘On top of that, Manchester United must come to Stamford Bridge. I think the situation is OK.’’