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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

AVB laughs off selection rumours

Andre Villas-Boas laughed off any suggestion Roman Abramovich had ordered him to play Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien for Chelsea's Premier League win over Bolton.

• Chelsea 3-0 Bolton
• Lampard admits AVB issues

Villas-Boas recalled the trio who were controversially left out for Tuesday night's Champions League defeat at Napoli and watched them help ease the pressure on him by ending the Blues' five-match winless run and lift them back into the top four.

The Chelsea boss revealed on Thursday that Abramovich, who attended the 3-0 victory over Bolton, had sought an explanation for his team selection in Naples, where his side were beaten 3-1, but he categorically denied that had influenced his starting line-up when asked about it this afternoon.

"What are you trying to say?" he said. "Of course, it's a coincidence."

He added sarcastically: "I got the call just this morning to play them, all three of them."

That brought laughter at a post-match press conference, which was by far the most relaxed of the past month, but Villas-Boas also warned he would be far less jovial in future should anyone question his integrity, saying: "The day that I feel disrespected in some way about my professionalism, you will find a different person speaking to you."

The decision not to play Lampard, Cole and Essien in midweek sparked further reports of dressing-room unrest.

Explaining their recalls, Villas-Boas said: "Today, we got back to our normal 4-3-3, three fresh legs on the pitch, so I think pretty straightforward.

"Lamps has always been competing for the place since he returned from injury and played against Everton. He had his chance today and played fantastically well. Normal squad rotation and nothing new."

Villas-Boas, who insisted he did not need to win against Bolton to keep his job, also warned that Lampard's performance, which included the 150th league goal of his career, did not guarantee him a start in future.

"It's not the way it works," Villas-Boas said. "There are six players competing for those three positions. When we play with a No. 10, it's even less. It's six players for two.

"You asked me directly at Napoli if Lamps was disappointed at missing the game and I assure you that he was, just like Raul (Meireles) was disappointed today, just like (Oriol) Romeu and (John) Obi Mikel."

He added: "When he plays like this, he is nearer to team selection, as always."

It was not all good news for Chelsea, with Didier Drogba, who scored the second goal, limping off injured.

"He had a big, big knock," Villas-Boas said, adding that the striker is doubtful for international duty with Ivory Coast this week.

His replacement, Fernando Torres, will definitely not be linking up with his country after being dropped by Spain.

"A big, big miss for Fernando, for sure," Villas-Boas said. "The only thing I can hope for is for Fernando to get back to an excellent level, like he has been playing for us, and go back to the national team."

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