The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, insists the Premier League title race is already a two-horse affair once again – and believes that could apply to the Champions League as well.
Redknapp cannot see beyond Manchester United and Chelsea – last season's winners and runners-up respectively. Manchester United pulled off a 1-0 victory at Fratton Park on Monday to heap the agony on Pompey following their 4-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge 10 days ago.
The difference between United, the European champions, and last season's unlikely FA Cup winners was just a scruffy 33rd-minute goal which arrived when Darren Fletcher's half-hit shot was helped into the net by French defender Sylvain Distin's frantic swipe on the line.
But United were without such luminaries as Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves – all injured – and Redknapp admitted: "They are still so strong that I can see them and Chelsea being the two slugging it out again for the title.
"They will probably meet again in a repeat of the Champions League final too. Certainly, I think Arsenal and Liverpool have it all on to finish above them.
"Chelsea were very strong last week and United will be even stronger than they are now if they sign Dimitar Berbatov [from Tottenham]."
United's second win in six visits to Fratton Park left Pompey with an unwanted club record of six Premier League defeats on the trot. Redknapp's side lost their last four in the league last season when clearly distracted by thoughts of the Wembley final clash with Cardiff. But Redknapp insisted: "We've been a good team over the past two seasons and I'm confident we'll be a decent team again.
"I went in at half-time feeling quite pleased but we ran out of steam in the second half and people like [Carlos] Tevez and [Wayne] Rooney just popped the ball about when the heat went out of the game. Once we play a bit more and get to understand each other we will be okay."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "It was a bonus win. We only drew here last season and we lost the season before that. It is never an easy place to come but I thought we played good football."
Fletcher said: "We did well with what we've got. We had to play a pretty tight midfield unit without much width but it is good we won't slip too far behind what with having no league game next weekend."Reuse content