Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ferguson Switches Focus to Home Front

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ferguson Switches Focus to Home Front

Article excerpt

MANCHESTER United's title showdown with Chelsea on Sunday will hang like a heavy black cloud over their attempts to reach the Champions League final.

The Red Devils are preparing to face the Stamford Bridge outfit knowing defeat will knock them off the top of the Barclays Premier League and pitch them into a two-game goal-difference shoot-out to decide the championship.

It is a scenario Sir Alex Ferguson had hoped to avoid by claiming something from last weekend's trip to Arsenal.

But defeat, plus the memory of how his side suffered at Chelsea's hands right in the middle of two huge tussles with Bayern Munich, has led Ferguson to no other conclusion than he must make changes for tonight's semi-final second leg with Schalke. "If you look at our experience of last year, the team were very tired against Chelsea in that next game after losing in Munich," he said.

"All four semi-finalists lost this weekend too and there are certain statistics that tell you the European games do take it out of you. That has to have a bearing on my team selection.

"We have two massive games. Both as important as the other.

"Chelsea is massive, so I have to pick the right team tomorrow to ensure I have the same kind of freshness I need for Sunday's match.

"Hopefully I will have the nucleus of a team that is still good enough to win the match."

Ferguson knows that is not entirely necessary either. Last week's two-goal victory in Germany means Schalke must come up with a highly unlikely repeat of their destruction of holders Inter Milan at the San Siro.

Nevertheless, Ferguson insisted: "It is always dangerous in football to assume you have cracked it; that you have found a silver bullet or discovered some secret formula for success."

Wayne Rooney reported for training yesterday with a tight hamstring and will probably be on the bench at best. …

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