Carlo Ancelotti has claimed Manchester United lost more than just three points when they were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool a fortnight ago; they gave away the key to how to beat them.
The Chelsea manager admitted he watched in admiration as Liverpool squeezed the life out of the United midfield, with Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano denying the champions the chance to generate any rhythm.
Chelsea welcome United to Stamford Bridge tomorrow from the comfortable position of being two points clear at the top of the table. Thanks to Liverpool's masterclass two weeks ago, Ancelotti said he has the blueprint of how to beat the champions.
The Italian said: "Liverpool did a fantastic match, a strong match, and put a lot of pressure on the pitch. That's why they won. They didn't give United any possibility to play like they want to. It was a good lesson for us because Manchester can suffer when there's pressure on their midfielders."
The Chelsea manager also said United will be weaker without Rio Ferdinand, who will be missing tomorrow with a persistent calf injury. "Without Ferdinand they lose something, but [Jonny] Evans and [John] O'Shea are very good centre-backs."
Ancelotti has enjoyed memorable tussles with Ferguson ever since they first met at the semi-final stage of the Champions League in 1999 when the Italian was in charge of Juventus. The second leg remains one of the greatest away performances in United history, as they came away with an epic 3-2 win.
Ancelotti prefers to remember a 3-0 triumph for Milan in the second leg of the 2007 Champions League semi-finals. United had won the first leg 3-2 but Milan steamrollered them on a rain-sodden night at the San Siro.
Ancelotti said: "There was a particular atmosphere after the first match because we lost the first leg in the last minute at United and I think that goal forced my team to play in a more attacking style. After 15 minutes we were 2-0 up."
He will not be advocating such an adventurous approach at Stamford Bridge tomorrow. "The best thing is to maintain a balance," Ancelotti said. "They have a good defence but also fantastic strikers. Wayne Rooney is one of the most intelligent strikers in the world, so we have to think about him."
Ancelotti's abiding memory of Ferguson was sharing red wine after their first meeting, at Old Trafford in 1999 when a late equaliser from Ryan Giggs gave United a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. "He offered me a glass of wine after the match," he said. "Usually in Italy after a game you're a little bit nervous, so I appreciated this.
"In my office now I have red wine and beer. I can do whatever he wants after the match. I think he'll prefer red wine. I will."
Ban lifted – but Blues don't expect to buy anyone
Chelsea's transfer ban was temporarily lifted yesterday, allowing the club to buy reinforcements in January, but manager Carlo Ancelotti says he does not expect to be needing new players in the New Year window.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) granted Chelsea's request to have the ban suspended while a final decision is reached on Fifa's decision to ban the club from signing players for two windows after inducing Gaël Kakuta to break his contract at Lens.
But Ancelotti admitted he does not intend to sign anyone despite losing four key players, including Didier Drogba, to the African Nations Cup in January. Ancelotti said: "It's a decision that gives us the possibility to buy new players, but at this moment it's not necessary. We want to have the opportunity if it is necessary."
The Chelsea manager said he would be content with the current squad, even if the two-window ban is reimposed later, up until summer 2011.Reuse content