Arsenal expect to outflank Ferguson on the big stage

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The Independent Football

Arsenal's Ashley Cole and Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, claimed their respective clubs had the advantage yesterday as the build-up to Saturday's FA Cup final gathered pace.

Arsenal's Ashley Cole and Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, claimed their respective clubs had the advantage yesterday as the build-up to Saturday's FA Cup final gathered pace.

The Gunners will be without Thierry Henry and possibly Jose Antonio Reyes but will have form on their side according to Cole while Ferguson feels United "know how to handle" Arsenal.

"Both teams are going to want to win something and not go empty-handed over the whole season, but I think we have got the upper hand with the way that we are playing," Cole, who played in the side beaten by Birmingham on Sunday, said. "We are playing really well and the lads are confident."

United put an end to Arsenal's record unbeaten Premiership run earlier in the season, knocked them out of the Carling Cup and beat them at Highbury in February and Cole feels that revenge will be just as important as form come Saturday. "They have beaten us three times, but we can use that against them and beat them in the important one and pick up that trophy because it is important to us as a club to win something.

"If you ask any of the players, they all want to win it. It is a great Cup and we have had a full squad nearly in every game because the manager wants to win it," he said. "The bigger the pitch, the more we can play, pass and move, so we are looking forward."

Ferguson, meanwhile, was eager to play up his side's confidence despite their indifferent form over the final two months of the campaign that left them trailing six points in Arsenal's wake.

"One thing's for sure, we are certainly not afraid of them," he said. "A lot of teams, particularly some of the weaker teams in the league, tend to be frightened of Arsenal's pace. But that is not an issue for us. We have enough pace in our team and we know how to handle them.

"Any game against Arsenal is going to have extra tension, but the Cup final itself has always been a fantastic experience for us and you can't help but think it is a great opportunity to bring silverware to the club."

Rio Ferdinand has assured United fans that Malcolm Glazer's £790m takeover will have no effect on their preparations.

"It has not been difficult for players to focus at all," he said. "This is a massive game. It is a one-off Cup final that we have to win to put some more silverware into the cabinet. Nothing that happens off the pitch is going to get in the way of it."

There was bad news for Glazer yesterday when it emerged that United have slumped to fourth in the table of earnings from TV and prize-money by Premier League clubs over the past season. Chelsea (£50.8m), Arsenal (£48.7m) and Liverpool (£47.4m) all earned more than United (£44.4m), who paid the price for a poor Champions' League campaign and finishing third in the league.

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