Ferguson ready to scale another mountain in pursuit of Manchester City

 

The sound of Sir Alex Ferguson singing is generally an indication that all is well in Manchester United's world, and although "Climb Every Mountain" is not known to be in his repertoire, it should nudge aside Frank Sinatra once in a while.

Preparing for this afternoon's match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and the subsequent pursuit of Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League, United's manager came up with a rather apposite metaphor based on mountain climbing.

"I've climbed Ben Donich [2,776ft] in Scotland and when you get up there it's so fantastic," he said, "but the only problem you've got is that you have to come down."

Twice in his extraordinarily successful period in charge United have managed to stay on top admiring the view for three years running, and from the middle of the past decade onwards Chelsea have been their main challengers. These have been the top two clubs for five of the past six seasons, Liverpool being the only intruders when splitting the pair as United won the title three years ago.

However, this season Manchester City seem certain to ensure there will be no further one-two from the old firm.

"We won our first title in 1993 and 20 years on we're still battling there and we've only been out of the top two once or twice," Ferguson said. "We had that 10 years with Arsenal when every year it was between us and them and they were tough. When Chelsea came, they got off to such great starts under [Jose] Mourinho that we found it very difficult to catch them. It's not easy. It's a tough league and we're finding that this season with City. They've improved a lot and they're still favourites to win the League but if we can get through these away games then we've got a great chance."

After Chelsea, the next away game is actually at Ajax, but it is safe to say the Europa League is not occupying too many of the manager's thoughts. After a potentially volatile home fixture against their FA Cup conquerors, Liverpool, he will be more concerned with going to Norwich and then, critically, a Tottenham side who nevertheless face a tricky game of their own at Anfield tomorrow night, which they could start eight points behind United.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are breaking the mountaineers' code and looking down, where they find Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal in pursuit. Andre Villas-Boas may promise with a smile, as he did on Friday, "I don't think we'll finish below fourth," but they are currently in no position to end up any higher.

Although, as he admitted, this was never intended to be a transitional season, that is how it is turning out.

"Villas-Boas is playing a different way," Ferguson noted, "and when we played them earlier in the season they were far more fluid. He's brought in a couple of players who have made a difference in Ramires and [Juan] Mata and he's given [Daniel] Sturridge a chance and he's repaid him."

Then, of course, there is Fernando Torres, who scored against United at Old Trafford in September's 3-1 defeat, a scoreline that would have been closer had he not later committed one of the misses of the season.

"We're not just looking for Fernando the goalscorer, we're looking for Fernando the player to reach the level of performance he had against Sunderland," Villas-Boas said. "I think a goal will trigger it all but we have to wait and see.

"There is a new way of playing of Chelsea where you have more of the ball and less spaces in behind. This changes the nature of a player's movement and requires certain adaptation, and that's what we're trying to get."

Chelsea v Manchester United is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before