Ferguson fired up for Arsenal clash

Sir Alex Ferguson has declared Manchester United's Barclays Premier League showdown with Arsenal on Sunday as his club's "biggest game of the season".

Although United had business of their own to attend to on Wednesday as they sealed a Carling Cup final berth at the expense of Manchester City, it did not escape Ferguson's notice that Chelsea swept back to the Premier League summit with their own win over Birmingham, and still have a match in hand.

So, with the Red Devils' margin for error reducing all the time, Ferguson knows the importance of beating the only other side he believes can deprive United of a record fourth consecutive title.

"Looking at the way the league is shaping up, this game on Sunday is the biggest of the season for us," said Ferguson.

"If Chelsea win their game in hand they go four points ahead of us. That is the catch-up part.

"But Sunday's game has great relevance because both sides have a genuine chance of winning the league."

United had never won at the Emirates Stadium until last season's Champions League semi-final.

That one-sided encounter changed the run, since when Arsenal have suffered successive heavy home defeats to Chelsea, the latter occasion in November providing the trigger for a number of the Gunners' critics to write them off completely.

"It is amazing how this league has changed," said Ferguson.

"As I have said all along, the team that is most consistent will win the league now.

"Arsenal's current form has been very good. It has brought them back into the picture. That is why this is such a massive game for us."

United will be without Rio Ferdinand, who starts a four-match ban after a Football Association disciplinary panel decided his appeal against a violent conduct charge for his attack on Hull's Craig Fagan last week was "frivolous".

Ferdinand is still deciding whether to lodge an appeal to try and get the additional match that was tagged on to the automatic three-game suspension rescinded.

That will be of no assistance on Sunday, although at least Ferguson does have Nemanja Vidic available after the Serbian defender recovered from a nerve problem that has kept him on the sidelines throughout the first few weeks of 2010.

Wayne Rooney is United's obvious goalscoring threat, having scored five times in a week to take his tally for the season to 21.

He might be asked to put in another energetic performance as a lone front-man too given it promises to be one of the few occasions in a season when the Red Devils do not dominate possession and chances.

As with Manchester City, there is a new competitive element to the contests with Arsenal that is bound to bring an added edge to the stands as well.

Ferguson has opted to call for some of the vile chanting often directed towards Arsene Wenger to be curtailed, insisting the supporters who cheered his side to victory in midweek could do the same this weekend if they concentrate on the more positive aspects of their own team.

Chelsea will watch with interest, Carlo Ancelotti no doubt hoping for a draw, which would offer his own side the chance to establish a pretty strong grip on a championship race Ferguson reasonably assumes is now between three contenders.

"It seems that way, although there have been so many indifferent results for the top sides that you cannot be 100% certain," he said.

What this season has done is revive a history that goes back 20 years, when a thrilling last day title win for Arsenal at Liverpool was followed 12 months later by Ferguson winning his first trophy for the Old Trafford outfit.

The rivalry has endured ever since.

"These games with Arsenal are historic," he said.

"Since I came down here, apart from the early years before George Graham won his first title, it was Arsenal and United who were mostly competing for the trophies.

"Without doubt Chelsea have become a prominent team in that respect too and it has been ourselves and Chelsea challenging for the league in the last few years.

"But you can never dismiss Arsenal because their history will always guarantee a challenge. And they are definitely in the fray again."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
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

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor