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Sep 19, 2008

Ronaldo desperate to face Chelsea

Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo is begging manager Sir Alex Ferguson to let him play against title rivals Chelsea on Sunday after making his return from injury against Villarreal on Wednesday night. The 23-year-old winger, who scored 42-goals for United last season, underwent ankle surgery in July and despite courting a move to Real Madrid during the transfer window he received a rapturous reception from the fans at Old Trafford when he came off the bench to make his season debut.

With Ferguson's side lacking goals (they have scored just four times in five competitive matches so far this season) and Ronaldo chomping at the bit, he would seem certain to start the crucial clash but the United manager insists he has not yet made his mind up.

"Cristiano is bursting to play," Ferguson said. "He is nibbling in my ear all the time."

"He has trained very well and is a natural athlete, so I have no qualms on that score. I just have to decide whether it is the right time."

Ronaldo has already warned the Blues that he will do the damage for United when the Premier League favourites face off and insists he is ready to strike back if they attempt to muscle him out at Stamford Bridge.

"I know that the attempts to intimidate me on the pitch will start again immediately - but everyone finds sooner or later that it is difficult to make me lose my rag," he said.

"I'll be booted again but I will not kick out when it happens. I'm tough and, again, it's all just part of the spectacle.

"I'll do my damage as usual by paying them all back with my goals."

Ferguson would certainly welcome Ronaldo's scoring touch as United must put end to a relatively barren run if they are not to fall nine points adrift of Chelsea, a staggering gap even if the Old Trafford outfit would still have a game in hand.

"I just want my team to put the ball into the net,'' said the Scot.

"We are simply not scoring enough goals to turn the whole thing round.

"But it will come. By October we will be fine. I have no doubt in my mind about that.''

Although Dimitar Berbatov is fit, it seems highly unlikely the £30million man will play alongside Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney.

If any of the quartet were to stand down, on current form it would be Rooney, who looked a shadow of the player who starred for England in Croatia as United drew their midweek blank.

Yet Ferguson claims to be unconcerned, meaning Berbatov's lack of recent match practice may see him consigned to the bench, where Owen Hargreaves could also find himself now that Paul Scholes is back from suspension.

The United boss also has a major dilemma in defence, where Wes Brown and Jonny Evans could both replace the banned Nemanja Vidic, with Gary Neville coming in at right-back if the younger man got the nod.

While facing Chelsea is nothing new in itself, going toe to toe with Scolari will be for Ferguson, who was not always complimentary about the Brazilian's handling of Ronaldo.

It is a challenge he is relishing, even if the language barrier means the personal duel may lack some of the intensity of his scraps with Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

"It is interesting,'' said Ferguson.

"You wait to see what impact a manager has.

"You want to know whether they are going to change their style or what type of players they will buy in. You also want to know what his principles are and what he believes in because all managers are different.''

Scolari's major changes appear to be pushing both his full-backs further forward and introducing Deco - Ronaldo's former international team-mate - who is less forceful in style than now injured midfield colleague Michael Essien but seems to be just as effective.

"Deco is a nice footballer,'' Ferguson said.

"He is diminutive and clever. He does not have the same athleticism as Essien but it does not make them any less as a team.''

Chelsea's 84-game unbeaten record on home soil provides United with a challenge to overcome.

"It is a great challenge for us because Chelsea have not lost at home for so long.

"I know a lot of people do not expect us to win, which is unusual for our club. That is the challenge. Let's get on with it.''

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