Ferdinand keeping grounded as United hit form

Rio Ferdinand insists there has been "no singing and dancing" at Manchester United, even though they are top of the Premier League.

Having clambered above Arsenal and Manchester City courtesy of Monday's win over the Gunners – while retaining a precious game in hand – United are now obvious favourites to claim a record 19th league championship.

Victory at Chelsea tomorrow really would generate a feeling that Sir Alex Ferguson's men had one hand on the trophy.

But there is no sense of euphoria among Ferdinand and his team-mates, merely a steely determination to reclaim a piece of silverware they believe belongs to them.

"We are not singing and dancing about being top," he said. "We will sing and dance in May if we are still top. I would rather be there then. We just want to win that league."

At this point 12 months ago, Ferguson was also preparing a side to visit west London.

On that occasion Fulham was the destination and United were forced to name a team with Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick at centre-half due to an injury crisis.

It is hardly a surprise defensive performances have improved markedly this term.

Ferdinand and long-time partner Nemanja Vidic completed their 10th Premier League game together against Arsenal and it would be a major shock if Ferguson split them up for the Chelsea trip.

"I don't know if it is just down to me and him being together," Ferdinand said of United's improvement. "The whole thing is not as fragmented this season. No matter what team you are, you are going to suffer when you don't have centre-backs playing in that position.

"But I am comfortable with Vida. We have played together for a few years. We know each other's games inside out and that feeds through to the other players."

United have not won at Stamford Bridge since 2002 and should be relishing the contest given Chelsea's recent dismal form.

But former West Ham captain Ferdinand has been around too long to believe form will be a factor this weekend.

"Top-of-the-table clashes are about what happens on the day," he said. "The type of form you are in doesn't matter.

"There are enough players on the pitch to win the game. Whoever plays best on the day or gets that little bit of luck will come out winners.

"These kind of games are like auto-pilot. You don't have to think too much because you know each other's games so much.

"We have played against them loads in the last few years. They are a good side. We will never doubt that."

Nevertheless, six points in front with a game in hand – assuming United win – would be a pretty healthy position if this league season was not so uncertain.

"It would be a blow to them if we got six points in front," Ferdinand said. "But they were six or seven clear of us a month ago.

"It can all change so quickly if you have a bad run. It would be a good boost for us if we could win but it won't define our season."

Ancelotti, meanwhile, insists Chelsea's title challenge will not be killed off by a defeat to United this weekend.

Sunday's crunch clash at Stamford Bridge has been billed in some quarters as decisive for the Blues' hopes of retaining their title, with their recent miserable run seeing them drop three points behind United.

Under-pressure manager Ancelotti is well aware a loss could eventually see that gap soar to nine points, but was adamant such a deficit could be recovered in the most unpredictable title race for years.

"A lot of teams are involved at the top of the table, maybe five teams," said Ancelotti, who last week reaffirmed his commitment to see out his contract despite reports suggesting he had become disillusioned at the club. "For this reason, there are a lot of important games in the season and it's too early now to say that it could be a decisive game."

However, the Italian did acknowledge the match could be crucial for his side's state of mind following a five-game winless streak in the league.

"It's an important game also for your confidence," said Ancelotti, whose side did the double over United last season on their way to winning the title by a single point.

"We beat Man United last year. It was good for the mentality, for the character, for the personality of the team."

Chelsea's hopes will be boosted by the return of star midfielder Frank Lampard, who Ancelotti confirmed would start.

England international Lampard came through the final 12 minutes of last weekend's 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur and a practice match on Thursday following three and a half months on the sidelines.

"This team needs Lampard's ability to score from midfield, it needs his experience," Ancelotti said. "It's very good news for us and he can help in the next game because he is fresh and he has a strong desire to come back to play."

Back to the top of the page