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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 3, 2006

United must keep the faith, insists Fletcher

Darren Fletcher insists Manchester United must not allow themselves to become demoralised by Chelsea's apparently unstoppable Premiership march.

United head into tonight's eagerly-awaited confrontation with Arsenal on the back of an exceptional run of form.

Yet incredibly - despite winning eight of their last 10 league games, including a victory over Jose Mourinho's men, and drawing the other two - the Red Devils have actually lost ground on the Stamford Bridge outfit, who moved 14 points clear with their win over West Ham yesterday.

In such circumstances, it would be easy for Sir Alex Ferguson's squad to let their heads drop.

But young Scotland international Fletcher, who scored the goal that beat Chelsea in November, maintains it must not be allowed to happen.

'Sometimes it is hard to believe we have lost ground on Chelsea, given the run we have had,' he said.

'They are not playing that well but they are managing to dig out results, which is the sign of a good team.

'It can be demoralising when they keep winning, but we have to keep the faith.

'We are playing some good stuff and have a lot of confidence at the moment.

'If we can win the race for second place, should Chelsea slip up, at least we will be there to take advantage.'

Chelsea's run of victories means that for the second season running United's visit to Highbury will have little bearing on the championship.

It does not need a trophy to be at stake, though, for a spark to be fired between Ferguson and his opposite number Arsene Wenger.

Rarely in recent times has a fixture between Arsenal and United passed off peacefully, with flying boots or pizza usually the order of the day.

Even without combustible duo Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, it would be no surprise if tempers frayed - although Fletcher feels United would be better served by adopting a calmer approach.

'These games are always a bit special, and the rivalry has definitely built up over the last few years,' he said.

'But as players we must try not to get involved in personal feuds.

'We just have to look at the job in hand, which is to get three points.'

Fletcher does recognise, however, that it may not take much to light the touchpaper again.

'The two teams have been battling at the top of the league for so long there is bound to be some kind of rivalry.' he said.

'Obviously Chelsea are there now, so maybe it will calm down a little bit. But you never know, something might spark off in the first minute at Highbury - and it will all be going off again.

'All I can say is the manager doesn't look to us to do anything like that. All he wants to do is play good football and win.'

Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy should return to Ferguson's starting line-up, but changes may not be that extensive following Saturday's win over Bolton.

It is 2002 since Arsenal last recorded a Premiership win over United. Despite their impressive home record this term, few would bet on Wenger's youthful side breaking that sequence - although Fletcher admits the Gunners still have to be respected.

'Maybe Arsenal are going through a little change, because they have a lot of young players down there,' he said.

'They didn't start the season with their usual force. But results have picked up, and they are doing well in Europe - so they are obviously still a very dangerous side.'