Terry aims to secure changing of guard

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The Independent Online

The guard of honour with which Manchester United's players will welcome Chelsea tonight will be intended to show that a club with 15 league titles can afford to be gracious towards another who have just won their second. And while there are no more meaningful points to be won by any top four Premiership side, there could hardly be a more symbolic place for the newly crowned champions to visit than Old Trafford.

The guard of honour with which Manchester United's players will welcome Chelsea tonight will be intended to show that a club with 15 league titles can afford to be gracious towards another who have just won their second. And while there are no more meaningful points to be won by any top four Premiership side, there could hardly be a more symbolic place for the newly crowned champions to visit than Old Trafford.

There are records that could yet be broken by Jose Mourinho's team, not least United's 1994 points total of 92, but when John Terry talks about embarking on an unbeaten run like Arsenal's last year it was clear they have their sights set higher. The fates decided that Chelsea would not be required to come to Old Trafford to win the title, but if they are to establish a dynasty of dominance then it will be that stadium which will have to be conquered eventually.

It is a curious parallel that when Mourinho won the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford on 26 January he picked his full-strength side and tonight, with even less at stake, there is still no reason not to pick close to a first-choice team. Chelsea's exit from the Champions' League means that for Terry, who has already pledged to frame every one of his 38 Premiership season shirts, and Lampard there is nothing more left to achieve than an ever- present status in the title-winning team.

The Chelsea captain has the chance to be part of a record-breaking defence that is still three goals clear of Liverpool's bench-mark of just 16 goals conceded in 1978-79, but he has said that defeat in the Champions' League has moved his team-mates to define their ambitions. Regardless of what they had already achieved, Terry said it was "not in the nature of this club" to field an under-strength team and that the players themselves would approach the Old Trafford game in a competitive spirit.

"Winning the Premiership and the Carling Cup double is a great achievement and a great starting point, but we must be thinking now that we can only build on what we have done and get better," Terry said. "If we can get better then we can make sure we win more and more trophies.

"Everybody says that the hardest thing of all is winning the title in back-to-back seasons and we know that United are the only side who've done that since the Premiership started. The challenge for us is to make sure we can do it as well.

"We need to do more. As a club we need to improve and as players we need to improve. You can only do that by bringing in bigger and better players. The only way for any club to move forward is to strengthen all over. It's the job for all of us to make sure we come back next season even harder to ensure we do improve. That's the key for everybody. The bar has been raised by what we have done this year and we need to clear it.

"Our aim next season has to be to go through the season without losing in the league at all. Arsenal showed last season that it can be done. They did it, so why can't we? None of us see any reason why we shouldn't be able to do that. We've lost once in the Premiership, at Manchester City, and that was a game we should never have lost. Maybe targeting an unbeaten season is setting the bar high, but that's what this club is all about. It's up to us to live up to it."

That Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford came too late to be of any significance has been identified by Arsène Wenger as a lucky break for Mourinho's team, who were due in Manchester on 16 April before the priority of the FA Cup semi-finals intervened. And it will also be a source of regret for Ferguson that he was not given the chance to interrupt Mourinho's title charge in the same way that United so emphatically derailed Arsenal in October.

The United manager was unequivocal in his criticism of his side's performance against West Bromwich Albion, but Chelsea's visit offers United the chance of redemption. There is a fragile bonhomie between Ferguson and Mourinho - of the kind that has long since ceased to exist between the United manager and Wenger - but the older man will want to make sure that the Portuguese coach suffers his first defeat in three visits.

"What I'm hoping on Tuesday is that we can get on a run of form going into the FA Cup final," Ferguson said. "And that means winning, and then winning against Southampton at the weekend to make sure we reach the final in good heart." The guard of honour will express the sporting principles that Ferguson holds dear and after Saturday his players would do well to remember the standards he demands, too.

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