Fergie: Seven days for United to land the big five as the going gets tough
07 March 2009 01:11
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has told his players that the next seven days could unlock the door to a record-breaking five trophies this season.
With the Carling Cup and the Club World Cup already in the bag, United face Fulham in the FA Cup today, Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday and Barclays Premier League title rivals Liverpool next Saturday.
The United manager had shied away from talking about a possible five trophies but last night he hinted that it will be a real possibility. Ferguson said: 'If you asked me at the start of the season where I would like to be in the middle of March, you couldn't go much beyond where we are now.
'We had a difficult time going to Japan (for the Club World Cup) and that was the turning point in the season for us, because we have come back and done exceptionally well.
'The next seven days are important and if we navigate them properly there are a lot of exciting days ahead for us.
'The players seem to be adapting better than they have before and hopefully the changes in selection I will make will be the right ones.'
United have had opportunities to sweep the board domestically before, but their Treble of 1999 is the only time they have gone close to claiming all the trophies available to them in one season.
Asked if his team had a better chance this time, Ferguson said: 'Yes, because of the resources we have. I always knew what my best XI was in the past. I don't know my best XI now because I pick a different team for different games.
'The development of some of the younger players has got me thinking about what is my best team and that gives us a better chance.
'There has been a marked improvement in the general development of the younger players, which means I can make one or two different selections. That could be crucial.'
United rest key players today but will field a team strong enough to reach the semi-finals. Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be in the squad, despite the buffeting he took at Newcastle in midweek.
Ferguson agrees with Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger that Ronaldo has an arrogance about him but added that he will continue to encourage Ronaldo to taunt and tease his opponents with his skills.
He said: 'I don't see why I should restrain him. That's the way he plays. I enjoy watching that. I paid £10million to watch that.
'What Arsene actually said is that Cristiano sometimes appears arrogant and that is a difference.
'I can understand what Arsene is saying. When a player expresses himself in such an entertaining way then defenders don't enjoy it.
'All the great players have the courage to want the ball and express themselves. All the great players have a touch of what you can call nice arrogance - belief in themselves.'
Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson is expecting a decent bottle of red wine from Ferguson today, after leaping to the defence of Ronaldo.
The Portuguese winger has courted controversy by letting his temper get the better of him and kicking out in retaliation after having his ankles clipped. But the Fulham manager insists that it is asking too much to expect players to behave like saints.
He added: 'Alex owes me a drink on this one I think, but never forget that football players are human beings. Never forget that when someone hurts you, your first reaction is to react against them.
'If you are walking down the street and all of a sudden someone throws a right hand and smacks you in the ear, your first reaction is to hit them
'If someone finds themselves being fouled a lot or being knocked over and has a kick out to show his displeasure, he is the one who gets sent off and the person who has been knocking him over five or six times gets away with it. A lot of the red cards you see are for so-called retaliation.'