Fergie eyes Premier summit
SIR Alex Ferguson has called on Manchester United to hit the accelerator as the Premier League title campaign enters another crucial phase. With their interest in the FA Cup over at an early stage, United have the chance to jump above Chelsea and current leaders Arsenal by claiming top spot for the first time since October if they can beat Hull at Old Trafford. In the last week Chelsea have put seven goals past Sunderland and Arsenal roared back against Bolton in midweek to seize pole position on goal difference barely a month after being completely written off. So, with the London duo flexing their muscles and other pretenders failing to beat opposition from much lower in the table, the title race is taking shape. And Ferguson does not want to be left behind. "You have to win your games now," he said. "Top of the league is the best place to be. Our game is the only one in Premier League tomorrow so it is an opportunity for us." Victory is even more important because of matches that follow. Next Sunday, United head to Arsenal looking to record a league double over Arsene Wenger's in-form side, having already beaten them on home soil in August. Seven days after that, the Gunners visit Chelsea. Given the present state of play, a couple of away wins, or a draw at Stamford Bridge, would suit Ferguson fine. He accepts should Arsenal win both matches, they will suddenly be on course to end a five-year title drought dating back to the Invincibles era. Arsenal threat "A few weeks ago, when they slipped 11 points behind the pace, the Gunners were written out of the championship race," recalled Ferguson. "Arsene Wenger, they said, was on his way out. "But they have won their games recently and are now top of the league. "So I smile when I hear what the prophets of doom have to say. We are in a tough league and if you go on a consistent run you are going to have a great chance because teams are dropping points. "There are some massive games coming up, so these are interesting times now." Ferguson can at least take some comfort from the return of Rio Ferdinand tomorrow. The England defender has been out for almost three months with a back complaint that dates back to beyond last season's Club World Cup trip to Japan. Although Ferdinand is bound to be rusty, his presence has been missed and should also allow Ferguson to shunt Wes Brown into the right-back slot, if not to face Hull, then Manchester City next Wednesday. That Carling Cup decider is bound to be uppermost in Ferguson's mind when he comes to select his side tomorrow, even to the extent that Wayne Rooney may be handed a break. Dimitar Berbatov's recovery from a dead leg does provide Ferguson with an alternative, along with Michael Owen and new-boy Mame Biram Diouf, who has made a decent impression since his arrival from Molde. The Senegal-born youngster scored his first United goal on his home debut against Burnley last week and the excellent reserve team hat-trick he claimed at Sunderland last night has not escaped Ferguson's attention. "Diouf will certainly come into my thinking," said Ferguson. "He has done exceptionally well with his training performances and scoring a goal last week and a hat-trick last night. We are really pleased with him." And, as transfer deadline-day edges nearer, it does appear Diouf - who was signed last summer but remained in Norway to complete their season - will be Ferguson's only recruit. "I have had no more thoughts on transfers at all," he shrugged. What do you think? Have your say.
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