Ferguson plays down Mourinho confrontation
Manchester United's League Cup semi-final showdown with Chelsea today is about more than a head-to-head confrontation between the rival managers, according to United's Alex Ferguson.
Chelsea's Jose Mourinho has led his team 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League and triumphed on his last trip to Old Trafford when Porto knocked United out of last season's Champions League.
"He's done fantastic at Chelsea, there's no doubt about that," Ferguson told reporters yesterday. "But this is not about Jose Mourinho or Alex Ferguson, it's about 22 great players on the pitch.
"Both sides have got match-winners, both sides have got great players and in a semi-final situation there's much more to talk about with the players."
One of the players at Old Trafford should be Chelsea winger Arjen Robben, who is set to face United for the first time since Ferguson missed out on signing the Dutchman last year.
"When two good teams meet any such player could win it. There are plenty of match-winners on both sides," Ferguson added.
Alan Smith could return to the United attack after recovering from an ankle injury as Ferguson, missing injured midfielder Darren Fletcher, is likely to name a strong side with the tie perfectly poised following a goalless draw in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
"It is a temptation and I'm giving it serious consideration," he said. "There will be two or three changes because we've got Saturday's game against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and the league game against Arsenal next Tuesday so we have to spread the load."
Chelsea have lost only once in domestic competition this season and Ferguson appears to view the game as a chance to win the competition for only the second time, rather than an opportunity to win a psychological battle to help his team's faltering title challenge.
"You would have to think there would have to be a lot of damage done to claw that back," he said. "It's a terrific lead at this time of the year.
"It (the cup tie) is sudden death and should be a fantastic game. Our record in semi-finals is terrific so hopefully we can maintain that.
"You would think we would have an advantage but Chelsea's form away from home has been so good. They have gone to Liverpool and gone to Highbury and are still undefeated in those games and these are the major games anyone going away from home would want."