Ferguson is 'not afraid' of Arsenal's speed

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has issued an early FA Cup final warning to Arsenal: "We are not afraid of you."

Sir Alex Ferguson has issued an early FA Cup final warning to Arsenal: "We are not afraid of you."

Despite their weekend defeat at Birmingham and the loss of Thierry Henry to an Achilles injury, the Gunners head into Saturday's game as favourites to beat a Manchester United side that has been out of sorts during the final two months of the campaign. Ferguson, however, has struck a defiant tone.

"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 cash 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 Premiership. Perhaps most importantly, the Old Trafford side earned almost £13m less (25 per cent down) than in 2003-04.

United will still outperform their rivals in terms of other income but it is the first time since the launch of the Premiership that the club has not finished in the top two in the TV and prize-money earnings league.

United's Champions' League earnings of £10.06m, their worst for six years, are due to a combination of finishing third in the Premiership in the 2003-04 season, which affects their slice of TV money, and failing to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions' League.

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