Ferguson says Rooney loss won't help Chelsea
Manchester United are confident the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney won't ruin their chances of beating second-place Chelsea today and taking another big step towards winning the English Premier League title for an unprecedented fourth time in a row.
Although Rooney, who has scored 34 goals this season, is sidelined with the ankle injury he picked up in Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League quarter-final loss to Bayern Munich, manager Alex Ferguson said yesterday he was able to revert to the strike force that beat Bolton 4-0 without Rooney a week ago.
Dimitar Berbatov scored twice in that game and is expected to lead the attack when Chelsea goes to Old Trafford hoping to take over from United at the top of the standings.
"It's a good week for Chelsea in that they know Wayne's picked up an injury and they haven't played (in midweek). But I only need to make one change," Ferguson said yesterday. "I may make two or even three changes, depending how I see this particular game."
Even though Michael Owen is also out, Ferguson, whose team leads Chelsea by one point with six games to go, also has 18-year-old Italian striker Federico Macheda as another option in attack.
"He's one of the most exceptional young strikers I've seen in my time at United," Ferguson said of Macheda, who had a sensational debut last season when he scored a late winner against Aston Villa. "He has every chance of taking part in big matches. His ability around the box for a young player is outstanding."
Ferguson said Chelsea, who were knocked out of the Champions League by Inter Milan in the previous round, might think they have a slight advantage of a longer break since their last game - a 7-1 thrashing of Aston Villa.
"We're used to playing Saturday/Wednesday, Saturday/ Wednesday, so it's not an issue for us. We've been used to that for years," the United manager said.
"I think Chelsea will feel they have an advantage by having the week off. Sometimes you're better off playing all the time, the continuity and consistency of performance you get from playing all the time. But on this occasion we have four days, so we'll be fine."
No major changes
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, whose team has scored 12 goals in their last two matches, said Rooney's absence would not prompt him to make any major changes to his line-up or tactics.
"Manchester won't change its shape, its kind of play and we don't want to change our kind of play," he said.
Ancelotti said his own leading scorer, Didier Drogba, had been playing well despite having a hernia problem which may eventually need surgery.
"Drogba has been living with this problem for three or four months but it is not a big problem," the Chelsea manager said of the Ivory Coast striker who has scored 30 league and cup goals this season. "Sometimes he has problems after the game but during the week he doesn't have any difficulty."
Third-place Arsenal slipped to four points behind United after being held 1-1 by Birmingham last week and have run into more injury problems.
Team captain Cesc Fabregas was ruled out for the rest of the season after cracking a bone in his lower leg in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League. Fabregas hobbled around the field after scoring Arsenal's late equaliser from the penalty spot.
Defender William Gallas and forward Andrei Arshavin also went off with calf muscle injuries and are unlikely to face Wolves at home today.