Ancelotti: now United will focus on title

Chelsea manager thinks title race is tougher now that United can focus on league
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The Independent Football

Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, admitted yesterday that former Blues player Arjen Robben did not do his former club any favours when he scored the goal that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Robben's precise volley at Old Trafford on Wednesday night was enough to give Bayern Munich victory in their quarter-final tie on away goals. But the strike was not cheered by Ancelotti and his coaches, who had been hoping that United would progress to the semi-finals which could have been a factor in Chelsea's favour in the race for the Premier League title.

It had not gone unnoticed at Chelsea that defending champions United have lost seven games this season, and five of those defeats have occurred the weekend after a Champions League fixture. Chelsea have twice benefited from catching United off-colour in the days after a European tie, as have Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa.

Ancelotti confessed yesterday that he had been cheering on United on Wednesday evening. "I would have preferred for Manchester United to have beaten Bayern Munich and stay in the Champions League because it would be easier for us," Ancelotti said.

"It is not good news because the Champions League is an important competition and you have to use a lot of energy. Now both teams will be focused on the Premier League and we have to pay attention because they are close to us and we need to run quickly to arrive at first place."

Ancelotti's side lead United by two points, with five games to go. Chelsea were initially stunned by the shock of their own Champions League elimination by Internazionale three weeks ago, drawing the next game at Blackburn, before embarking on a three-game winning streak, including last weekend's 2-1 victory at United, that has lifted them clear.

Ancelotti is convinced United will show the same degree of mental strength to respond swiftly to the disappointment of Wednesday night, even though the champions' next fixture is Sunday's trip to Blackburn. The Chelsea manager said: "They can stay focused on the Premiership because they have experience and quality. They had a bad week, they lost the quarter-finals and they lost against us and now they have the possibility to come back and play well and win."

United's game at Blackburn provides them with the chance to go top again, as Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final with Aston Villa tomorrow means they have a weekend without a Premier League fixture. Ancelotti promised Chelsea are determined not to let the title slip from their grasp.

* Carlo Ancelotti yesterday won the League Managers Association's Performance of the Week for leading Chelsea to victory at Old Trafford. On the five-man panel; Sir Alex Ferguson.