Alex Ferguson's mind games are over-rated says Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo

 

Roberto Di Matteo was today ready to combat Sir Alex Ferguson's mind games with his own brand of covert psychology as he prepared for their first clash since he became Chelsea boss.

Blues manager Di Matteo played down the significance of the public jousting with rival bosses for which Ferguson has become notorious during his near 26 years at Manchester United.

But he revealed he would resort to fighting fire with fire if necessary as he prepared to pit his wits against the man he admitted was still the best in the business in Sunday's mouthwatering Barclays Premier League clash between the sides.

"If I need to, I will, but there is no need and sometimes it doesn't have to be publicly," said Di Matteo, who Blues winger Juan Mata revealed this week had proven a master of getting inside his own players' heads.

Ferguson has a reputation for getting inside the head of United's title rivals but Di Matteo was quick to point out the effect the Scot's mind games had on champions Manchester City.

"They didn't work last season, I think," he added.

"You make it out a little bit more than it is at the end of the day.

"As a manager, you have to prepare your team as good as you can and then the players have to go on the pitch and perform."

Nobody has done that better than Ferguson in the last quarter of a century.

Di Matteo, who revealed the Scot had not made contact with him since he landed the Chelsea job, said: "He's at the top. He's a very successful manager and experienced manager.

"He's won many trophies.

"I think he's been fortunate as well to be able to work at a club where he's been able to be there such a long time.

"It doesn't happen these days too often."

It certainly does not happen at Chelsea, who are on their eighth manager in eight years under ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.

Asked if he would like to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge for a similar length of time, Di Matteo said with a wry smile: "That would be nice, yeah.

"If you win all the games, there's a good chance..."

That poses the question whether even Ferguson would have survived at Chelsea last season had he won nothing, as he did at United.

"Every club is different and every situation is different," Di Matteo added.

"You cannot compare."

The Italian has already managed to outwit managerial greats such as Pep Guardiola, Jupp Heynckes and Arsene Wenger in his short time at Chelsea but Ferguson is arguably the biggest scalp of all.

But Di Matteo said: "I won't focus too much on that. I'll focus on my team and what we have to do to try to beat Man United and the way we have to approach the game tactically."

Di Matteo, who has masterminded Chelsea's four-point lead at the top of the Premier League over second-placed United, echoed calls from his players for them to tighten up in the wake of their first major setback of the season at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

"Starting the game well is probably very important - both halves, not just the first half," he said.

"And also probably being disciplined with the organisation and not losing that, even if you do concede an early goal.

"Certainly, after defeat, it's not the best in our dressing room, but we have a great game coming up on Sunday and I think we can show and prove to everybody that we are a strong team."

United have been even more suspect at the back this season, leading many to predict a goal-fest on Sunday.

"They are conceding a few goals and we have a big threat as well with our players, so we will try to exploit those weaknesses," said Di Matteo, who admitted Robin van Persie - who scored a hat-trick for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge last season - had made United more of a threat.

"He's scored some vital goals already.

"They're a strong team and they were at the top last season and have added to it.

"You wouldn't expect them to be anywhere else."

Both sides will be missing key players, with Chelsea without suspended captain John Terry and injured vice-captain Frank Lampard, who Di Matteo admitted was a "big loss".

PA

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick