Alex Ferguson predicts title challenge from Chelsea

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson is refusing to write Chelsea off as Premier League title rivals.

Manchester United assistant boss Rene Meulensteen has claimed the Blues squad is too old to reclaim the championship crown they lost to the Red Devils last term.

Chelsea have not performed that well so far this term, dropping points at Stoke on the opening weekend of the campaign before struggling to record home wins over West Brom and Norwich.

However, Ferguson has enough knowledge of the players at Andre Villas-Boas' disposal not to take anything for granted.

"They have tremendous experience - there aren't any young kids in that team," he told Inside United.

"We wouldn't be saying they are dead and buried would we? Why should they be?

"They'll still be a big threat and we expect them to challenge."

Certainly Ferguson does not feel the relative inexperience of Villas-Boas, at 33 the youngest manager in the top flight, should be a handicap.

"I am sure he'll get plenty of advice from others and he will do fine," said Ferguson.

"I don't know much about him. He is a young man and it's a big step coming into the Premier League from the Portuguese championship, but given time and support anything is possible."

One man eager to make his mark for United this season is Nani.

Despite some sparkling early season performances which went a long way towards him eventually capturing the club's players' player of the year prize, the Portugal winger's form eventually dipped.

As the downturn coincided with Antonio Valencia's return from an ankle injury, it cost Nani his place in Ferguson's Champions League final starting line-up.

The former Sporting Lisbon star has swallowed his disappointment and with Ashley Young providing even more competition for the wide roles, is eager to reach an even higher level.

"I hope this is my year," he said.

"Last year was my best year, definitely my most consistent season.

"This is a big chance to show I can do much more, that I'm a good player with a very strong mentality."

It is also Nani's chance to step out of the shadows of his illustrious countryman and former United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, to whom comparisons are always made.

"For five years, every time the question is the same," he said.

"It's all about Ronaldo. You have to be him. Are you doing the same? Do you think you can do it now?

"Always when I do something good it's the same. When I do OK, it's nothing. When I do something very good, they come with this question about him.

"But it's OK. It doesn't change anything in me. This is my fifth year here and people know what I can do."