Football: Ferguson keeps the heat on Wenger

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ALEX FERGUSON has aimed a well-placed dig at the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, in their continuing battle of minds.The two adversaries are once again trying to unnerve each other as the pursuit for honours comes to a climax.

The Manchester United manager began the latest exchange when he claimed his side's goalless draw with Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday made the Gunners favourites for the title. Wenger countered Ferguson by claiming the advantage was with Old Trafford's treble-chasing team.

Wenger also offered to swap positions with the Scot if he was so confident that the champions have the advantage. Now Ferguson has hit back at the Frenchman, saying: "I can understand his offer because we're in the Champions' Cup and they're not."

Ferguson and Wenger's psychological war would be bound to escalate if United beat Chelsea in tonight's quarter-final replay and set up a semi- final date with the Gunners at Villa Park on 11 April.

Ferguson is expected to revert to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation for the Stamford Bridge tie after playing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a lone striker and Phil Neville as a man-marker at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ferguson's tactics did confuse Chelsea initially, but they were not enough to break down the Blues' 10 men in the second half.

Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole should return to spearhead the attack, although Ferguson claimed he would decide on his line-up only after the team arrived in London. Jaap Stam is available after suspension and Ryan Giggs returns after a nose operation, but Nicky Butt and Ronny Johnsen are still injured.

Ferguson said: "We've got to consider how we can get through to the next round. We created enough chances on Sunday to have won it and the only difference being, I would imagine, at home Chelsea will have more of the game than they did at Old Trafford."

So far this season 270 minutes of football have not been enough to separate these two heavyweights, but there must be a winner tonight - even if it requires penalties - and Ferguson is anticipating another tight contest. "The fact that it was zero-zero on Sunday belies the scoring ability of both teams," he said.

"We had a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and a 1-1 earlier in the season which suggests a closeness between the two sides and thereby you would expect another close game.

"When good teams play each other there is always a certain professionalism and pride that comes into play and that's what we will see tomorrow.

"It should be a smashing game and with so many quality players on the pitch it should be entertaining."