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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson hoping injuries don't ruin another season

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced an injury-free start to the season can provide the spark to ignite another Manchester United title-winning campaign.

Although United concluded their three-match South Africa tour with a penalty shoot-out defeat to the Kaizer Chiefs in Pretoria yesterday, Ferguson declared himself delighted with the 10-day trip.

Some supporters may be getting twitchy at the lack of new signings, but Ferguson is not panicking, feeling the squad he currently has at his disposal is a good one and confident the couple of fresh faces he has spent the summer searching for will eventually arrive.

What Ferguson feels United do need is a little bit of luck.

A feature of the last three title-less campaigns has been the number of key injuries the Old Trafford outfit have sustained.

So, while Chelsea remain massive favourites to retain their crown, Ferguson feels United can provide a far sterner challenge to Jose Mourinho's men, providing he can keep his players out of the treatment room.

'I am not unhappy with my squad as it is,' said Ferguson.

'We are trying to sign a couple of players who would give us something different and bring a bit of variety to our play but when you look back at our form over the latter half of last season, I am not unhappy with the players I have.

'What we do need is a bit of a break at the start of the season because long-term injuries have been crippling us.

'By the end of September last year we already had six players out, then we lost Ryan Giggs with a fractured cheekbone, Paul Scholes suffered his eye problem and Alan Smith picked up that horrendous injury at Liverpool.

'They were all unusual injuries, the type you do not expect and in each case, it put the player out for months.

'In terms of the title, if we can avoid those injuries in the early part of the season, I think we will have a massive chance.'

Although he remained behind in Johannesburg for an extra 24 hours while his squad made an immediate return to England after yesterday's defeat, Ferguson will have spent plenty of that spare time pondering the exact make-up of his squad for next season.

It still seems possible Michael Carrick will move north from Tottenham, even though Ferguson has now revealed the London club want almost double the cash United have offered for the England midfielder.

A deal to prise goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak from West Brom has stalled, so Ben Foster is likely to remain at Old Trafford as Edwin van der Sar's deputy rather than complete a second season on loan at Watford as had previously been agreed.

And then there is Ruud van Nistelrooy, who Ferguson expects to see at training tomorrow along with Van der Sar, Park Ji-sung and the Red Devils' England World Cup contingent.

However, there must be a very real possibility Van Nistelrooy will not show up, a decision which would cost the Dutchman two weeks' wages but also bring a move to either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich a bit closer, with the German club now admitting they have spoken to the 30-year-old about a possible move.

'Ruud has told us he would like to play for us next season,' Rummenigge told the Bild newspaper.

'We have already spoken about money with him but it would be United who will finally decide.'

Ferguson is not putting deadlines forward for any of the deals and, with four weeks remaining before the Premiership season starts and another fortnight before the transfer window shuts, he still has quite a bit of time at his disposal.

But, in pondering the immediate fate of his younger squad men, the Scot suggested all would be known within a fortnight.

'We have to make decisions over some of our younger players but we won't do that for another two weeks before we know exactly how strong our squad is,' he said.

One man who will definitely be part of it is Ryan Giggs, who operated in central midfield in South Africa, just as he did, with some success, in the latter stages of last season.

It is likely the veteran Welshman will be moved if Ferguson can make the signings he is looking for. But, even at 32, the United boss knows Giggs can still make a major impact at the highest level.

'We know what Ryan can do,' he said.

'His pace and balance is always going to be a threat to defences but when our midfield was decimated last season, Ryan produced the maturity and experience which was so vital.

'He is a fantastic option for us in central midfield but we also have the option of using him as a forward.'