United can hold off Chelsea for title, says Ferguson

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They were taking the promotional posters down within 45 minutes of him having finished talking but there was no doubt that Sir Alex Ferguson had been in the room.

Speaking at the launch of the official Manchester United Opus, a limited-edition book weighing 35 kilograms and spanning 850 pages of photos and editorial, a relaxed Ferguson, now 20 years and counting in charge at Old Trafford, declared he had no problem with Chelsea's "ambition".

He then knocked back the Londoners' aim, stated at the weekend, to be the world's biggest club by 2014 by saying that they had to get past not only his side but the elite of Europe as well.

Furthermore, clearly enjoying the eight-point lead he commands over the Blues atop the Premiership, the Manchester United manager revealed his determination not to let Jose Mourinho's psychological ploys affect him or his players and responded with a couple of his own barbs.

"There's nothing wrong with having ambition," Ferguson said. "But there are other great clubs in the world. Ourselves, Arsenal and Liverpool have history. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Italian giants are all clubs with fantastic history. They've got a big mountain to climb to get above that lot because there are a lot of clubs there."

After Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Sunday, which left the Blues eight points behind United with only one game in hand, a defiant Jose Mourinho said that United were in trouble if they thought Chelsea were out of the title race.

Ferguson, 65 on New Year's Eve, said: "We will continue to do our talking on the pitch, I think. We'll only be in trouble if we listen to Jose too much. The important thing is to keep our heads and not get carried away. I won't be letting the players or myself fall into the trap of thinking it's won."

With Chelsea hosting Newcastle United tonight, a match they must win to close the gap to five points, Ferguson warmed to his theme and advised Chelsea of the difficulties of now deposing United from their perch. "There are many hurdles to be navigated in the run-in. To win the League you have to have great consistency, particularly around March and April. Historically, we've done OK in the past at that time of the year." He also pointed to United's leading in December, saying: "We are usually lagging behind. "We've never had the start we've had this year before."

But the Scot also warned: "All championship races are difficult. We've created ourselves a nice position. The real test comes in the run-in when any mistake can cost you everything... I'm sure it will be ourselves and Chelsea [for the title] but I'm sure we will last the distance. I'm confident because of the energy and youth in the team and we've got old codgers like [Paul] Scholes and [Ryan] Giggs I can rest at the right time. They bring a quality which is fantastic."