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By ESPN Staff

United play down Fergie retirement talk

Manchester United have played down reports that Sir Alex Ferguson is finally set to call time on his illustrious career in 2009. The date of Ferguson's retirement has frequently been the subject of intense speculation since his initial U-turn six years ago. Ferguson himself is not interested in discussing the matter, maintaining the stance that as long as he is enjoying the job and remains fit and healthy, he will continue. Only once has he expressed any irritation over the subject being an issue of public debate, when he accused those suggesting he might quit of trying to railroad him into retirement. Since that time, which came more than 12 months ago, the 66-year-old's inquisitors have tended to steer clear of the matter altogether. And United have responded to the new rumours in their usual manner. While they accept one day someone is bound to get the date of Ferguson's departure correct, they insist no concrete plans are in place for the Scot to end his remarkable stint at Old Trafford, which is now three years into its third decade. 'We get this every year,' reflected a club official. It would hardly seem the sort of topic Ferguson has any time to consider at the present time. Following last night's late equaliser at Blackburn, United head into Saturday's table-topping clash with Chelsea three points ahead of their nearest rivals, boasting a better goal difference and just three matches to go. However, before that, the Red Devils face the mouth-watering prospect of a Champions League semi-final with Barcelona on Wednesday, United's first visit to the Nou Camp since their epic victory over Bayern Munich in 1999, which remains Ferguson's only triumph in the competition.