Ferdinand tips familiar foes to challenge
Rio Ferdinand expects the same old rivals to be challenging Manchester United for Premier League supremacy this term. United launch their bid for a record fourth consecutive title - and a 19th overall - against Birmingham at Old Trafford on Sunday, knowing a place in the history books may await them. But while Manchester City provide a new slant on proceedings through finance alone, Ferdinand feels the major challenge to United's dominance will come from Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. "You do assess your rivals," said Ferdinand. "It has been the same teams over the last few seasons. Liverpool were runners-up so they will be there or thereabouts again, the same as Chelsea, who have a new manager with new ideas, while Arsenal have a talented young squad." He added: "Manchester City have invested heavily, Everton, Aston Villa and maybe Spurs will be up there as well and you might get someone coming out the pack to surprise everyone, like a West Ham. "In the end I think the top four will be similar to last season but I have to be honest, I could not care less who is up there as long as we are there. I care about Manchester United, it is simple as that." Ferdinand's statement will be welcomed by United fans, some of whom have been driven to distraction at the thought of City making a stern bid for some silverware. Others are a little wary about how their team will cope without the influence of £80million man Cristiano Ronaldo. At least Ronaldo's fellow countryman Nani was able to confirm his well-being with a substitute appearance for Portugal against Liechtenstein on Wednesday. Ferguson does have injury problems though, especially in central defence. Nemanja Vidic is definitely out with a calf problem, while his intended replacement Jonny Evans missed Northern Ireland's encounter with Israel this week after suffering an ankle injury. Wes Brown should be available but has not played for over a fortnight since injuring a thigh during a pre-season tournament in Munich. Craig Cathcart could be drafted in, while Ferguson would also have the option of using John O'Shea in the centre of his defence and allowing Ritchie De Laet to build on an unexpected Premier League debut at Hull last term.
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