In the red corner: Fergie takes the fight to Stamford Bridge

Sir Alex comes out fighting over United's woeful record at the Bridge but concedes the hosts' diamond formation packs a mighty punch, writes Jeremy Cross
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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has seen managers come and go from Stamford Bridge since 2002, but one thing has remained the same and it seems to be burning in the mind of the Manchester United manager.

That was the year United last triumphed over their great rivals in a Premier League game at the Bridge. Today's incentive to address such a poor record couldn't be greater considering a rare victory for United would lift them above Carlo Ancelotti's side to the top of the table.

Ferguson is convinced the season is still too new to place ultimate significance on the outcome, but he knows psychological points are also up for grabs against the team he now considers to be his greatest challenge.

Yet he faces a new conundrum that he must overcome if United are to claim three points: how to stop Chelsea thriving on the diamond formation Ancelotti has brought with him from Milan and implemented so successfully at his new home.

Ferguson believes Ancelotti has been missing someone to head the diamond, as Kaka did for the Italians, but the return to fitness of Joe Cole might just solve this problem.

Ferguson is a huge admirer of Ancelotti and believes he could be the manager to finally help fans stop mourning Jose Mourinho's exit. He said: "He has done a really good job quickly and he is helped because he has had experienced players around him. They can understand changes of tactics better than younger players. If you look at [Michael] Ballack and Deco, they come from places where tactics are more of an issue. Anelka and Drogba have played abroad so it's not surprising that they have adapted. It is the same to how he operated in Milan, with the difference being that he had Kaka. That made a hell of a difference and they [Chelsea] are still looking for someone in a forward role to balance their team better.

"They have tried [Frank] Lampard there, they have tried Deco, they have even tried [Florent] Malouda there and now they have brought in Joe Cole. But they have the experience to cope.

Regarding the spectre of Mourinho, he added: "I don't think Carlo is worried about that at all. He has his own CV. It is impressive, he has won two European Cups and the Scudetto, and how many European medals has he got? His European pedigree is unquestionable. He will maybe play a different way to Mourinho. He was at Milan for a longer time than we expect of Italian coaches. Maybe he needed a new challenge, and outside England where was there?"

Ferguson, who will be without Rio Ferdinand, who has a calf injury, and the suspended Gary Neville, does not believe this game will decide the title race but he appreciates that Chelsea are well ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool when it comes to pushing United. "They have replaced Arsenal as our main competitor. We have faced them in FA Cup and European Cup finals and they or us have been first or second in the League a number of times. They play a different system now but they are always tough to beat.

"It is early season. Until the internationals are over in November you don't get the consistent pattern. Teams can surprise you – we didn't expect to lose three points at Burnley, not in a million years. It was a fantastic night for them, their fans were brilliant and we never took [our chances]. But over the last two or three years, you tend to anticipate surprise results early on."

Such is United's dire record at the Bridge, the next biggest surprise could be an away win for the champions.

Chelsea v Manchester United is live on Sky Sports 1 from 3.30pm today

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