Grant happy to enter into mind games with Ferguson

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The Independent Football

There are still 24 days to go before Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge in a potentially decisive Premier League match but the tension is already rising with Sir Alex Ferguson and Avram Grant clashing yesterday. After Ferguson criticised Chelsea's attempt to reverse a fixture switch which left them facing two Premier League matches in four days, Grant suggested Ferguson was an "April Fool joker".

Chelsea are unhappy that their match against Everton on 19 April has been brought forward to Thursday 17 April at the behest of Sky TV. Chelsea play Wigan on 14 April. Ferguson was unsympathetic. "They have two games in three days [72 hours], then five days to prepare for a possible Champions League final, that's all right," he said. In a reference to a fixture move last season, when Chelsea hosted Spurs at Stamford Bridge, winning 1-0, 36 hours after Spurs had played a Uefa Cup tie in Seville, he added: "They had the advantage over us last season, and we still won the title."

"I like Alex but, what day is it?" said Grant alluding to 1 April. "I think he must be joking."

Grant's response reflected anger within the Chelsea hierarchy at Ferguson's comments given the United manager's frequent complaints about the way fixtures have fallen in the past, including last season's Chelsea-Spurs match. Chelsea are continuing to lobby for their trip to Everton to be moved back to 19 April, but are unlikely to be successful.

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