Fergie plays down United's chances

SIR Alex Ferguson has played down Manchester United’s chances of emulating their 1999 treble as his injury-hit team resume their quest for a record 19th title.

The English Premier League leaders travel to in-form West Ham on Saturday leading second-placed Arsenal by a healthy five points with only eight games remaining, although the Gunners have a game in hand.

But April promises to present Ferguson’s squad with their toughest test of the season so far, with a heavyweight Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea looming before an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

The demanding fixture list comes as Ferguson attempts to manage an injury crisis which has wreaked havoc with his defensive options.

Although Ferguson hopes to have captain Nemanja Vidic back for Saturday’s trip to Upton Park, Rio Ferdinand remains sidelined with a calf injury along with Rafael (hamstring), John O’Shea (hamstring) and Jonny Evans (suspended).

While Ferguson believes his squad are capable of repeating the club’s historic treble, the injury crisis will make it a tall order.

“It is going to be more difficult than it was in 1999,” Ferguson said.

“We will never give in, though. No matter what happens, you always feel Manchester United will score in the last minute.”

Ferguson, who is serving a five-match ban for his rant against referee Martin Atkinson, insists his criticisms were justified.

Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will welcome back an array of first-team players as they prepare to entertain struggling Blackburn at the Emirates.

Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are all fit after missing the 2-2 draw with West Brom two weeks ago. Wenger is also hopeful that Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Aaron Ramsey will all shake off minor knocks in time.

Victory in all of the Gunners’ remaining matches, including a fixture against United at the Emirates on May 1, would give Arsenal the title.



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