Ferguson insists United will avoid 'falling into traps'

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has assured Manchester United fans that his players do not intend to "fall into any traps" on the Premier League run-in as the leaders face Newcastle United at St James' Park tonight.

Most pundits are certain that United will draw level with old rivals Liverpool by recording their 18th league title this season.

Yet Ferguson has been around long enough to know the perils that still lie in wait. His belief that leagues are won and lost in March and April remains, and the message has been filtered through to his players in order to make sure they do not ease off just yet. "We will not be falling into any traps," said Ferguson. "March and April are the key months that will decide the league.

"I keep saying it, but no one listens. We have lost leads because of bad form in March and April; we have won them by going on fantastic runs. How can we possibly take anything lightly?

"What people say doesn't bother me," he added. "I've tried it myself a few times. You hope it disturbs your opponents and they get nervous. But I can assure everyone, we will drop points on the run-in and so will the others.

"I won't get over-excited about things. As I have always said, if we win a major trophy – and to me that means the Premier League or the Champions League – I would be delighted."

As Newcastle prepare for the champions' visit – a fixture they lost 5-1 last season – their caretaker manager Chris Hughton said that there would not be another interim manager appointed as the club awaits Joe Kinnear's recovery from heart surgery.

There had been speculation Terry Venables – approached by owner Mike Ashley before Kinnear last September – would receive another call but Hughton said he had been informed from above that it will not happen.

Hughton said there needs to be a consistency of message to a group of players who have heard from Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Kinnear, himself and Colin Calderwood in the past 14 months. "It [consistency] is hugely important and that's why the club made that decision because of what the club has been through at various stages of this season," Hughton said.

"Someone new coming in would be a new face for a group of players who have already seen quite a few new faces this season. That was the thinking behind it. The club seem to be going through a period of stability and it was felt it was right to continue that."

With a squad weakened by injuries to Nicky Butt and Damien Duff, and with Kevin Nolan suspended, Hughton will select a team intent on damage limitation. Newcastle's goal difference is better than the five sides below them, and that could be telling come May.