Ferguson doubts Chelsea challenge

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson wants to retain his Premier League and Champions League crowns

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Chelsea’s ageing squad may struggle to challenge his side for major honours next season.

The Scot says Liverpool and Arsenal are as much of a threat to United’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title.

“Chelsea are an experienced side and I don’t see outstanding progress coming from a team in their 30s,” he said.

“I wouldn’t write off Liverpool or Arsenal. It has been understated what Arsenal achieved last season.”

Ferguson, whose squad are currently on tour in South Africa, added: “They suffered injuries at a bad time, Arsenal – in February they lost most of their midfield.

Phil McNulty

“Who is to say that it would not have been closer if Arsene Wenger had kept his players fit?”

As for Chelsea, they have high hopes of regaining the title after bringing in new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and splashing out £24m on Portuguese internationals Jose Bosingwa and Deco.

But Ferguson says it will be difficult for Scolari to improve on what they have done in the past, with essentially the same group of players.

“I’m not concerned about Chelsea, I just don’t know how far that team has got to go,” stated Ferguson, who saw United beat Orlando Pirates 1-0 in Durban on Tuesday, thanks to a goal from Lee Martin.

“They have lots of experience and big-game temperament and in a sense Scolari is fortunate, joining a big club with a team of internationals.

We need to define his role a bit better and I have to take some responsibility for that
Sir Alex Ferguson on Wayne Rooney

“But it’s hard to see where there is going to be an improvement. Maybe they have reached a plateau – although perhaps that’s not the right word.”

Ferguson has also revealed his concern over the role of Wayne Rooney.

The England striker was not at his best for much of last season, despite United winning the Premier League and Champions League and Ferguson admits he must take a share of the blame.

The Scot confirmed: “We need to define his role a bit better and I have to take some responsibility for that.

“I think he has sacrificed himself for the team, which says a lot about the lad because he never complained.

“We have played him wide and in other positions – he would play at centre-half if we asked him to.

“He may have benefited from having someone with more experience alongside him, that always happens with young strikers as he was never going to be the finished article at 22.

“We signed him for his potential, which is why we paid £26m for him. In a few years we’ll be saying that is really brilliant business.”