Ferguson sets 84-point title target
While Chelsea have been busy spending big in the transfer market, Sir Alex Ferguson has been plotting how Manchester United can win the 84 points he believes will take the title away from Stamford Bridge.
Ferguson on Neville retirement
Premier League leaders United need to take 30 points from their remaining 14 games if they are to reach Ferguson's target, but given they could set a club record of 30 league games unbeaten, stretching back to last season, at bottom club Wolves on Saturday, it would not seem to be an unreasonable goal.
Ferguson said: "Consistency is the key and over the last two months it has been very good. Consistency is the thing that gives you the extra yard or extra belief. They trust each other. You have to trust each other. They can look around the dressing room and we have some battled-hardened professionals who have been through the course many many times.
"We are going to find that in the run-in there are going to be some interesting games for Manchester United. We have a little lead but that can vanish overnight. Manchester City are in a challenging position in that top four. Chelsea, Arsenal, ourselves and Tottenham, we are all in there battling. Our job is to retain that consistency and relish what we are going to experience. This is a great time to play football knowing you have an opportunity to win the league.''
Ferguson says he is "surprised but not amazed'' by spiralling transfer fees in the Premier League. The United boss admitted he was looking to make one signing in the January transfer window but it did not come to fruition. Instead he looked on as Liverpool's Fernando Torres moved to Chelsea for £50million and Newcastle's Andy Carroll switched to Anfield for £35million.
Ferguson said: "We have bought in January in the past. We tried one bit of business but it didn't work. Identification is the first thing. The second is getting the value. It is very difficult in today's market. You can be surprised at what happened but not amazed because the Premier League is such a high-profile industry throughout the world. It is the biggest league in the world. I think the highest transfer outside the Premier League in the window was £3million. That shows you the gulf in the spending in other countries.''
"Mick McCarthy by his nature is a fighter and his team are fighters so we expect a tough game, '' said the United boss. "I watched them against Bolton and I felt for Mick, I really did. It was devastating to lose that goal the way they did in the last minute of the game.''
Ferguson is now hoping Wayne Rooney can now find the consistency that saw him score 34 times last season. A brace in the victory against Aston Villa, only his fourth and fifth goals of the campaign, would suggest he could be ready to kick on.
Ferguson said: "There was no way Wayne wasn't going to play on Tuesday. He and Dimitar Berbatov have a good understanding. Hopefully - and there's every chance with scoring the kind of goals he scored the other night - he'll take off. Goalscorers are like that and hopefully that's what we're going to see with Wayne. He's got 14 league games, European games and FA Cup games - he could easily get a good average. Last season he was very consistent - in previous years he has scored in clutches of five or six games. But if he can get the consistency of last season then we are going to benefit from that.''
Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher is not taking Wolves lightly, despite the gulf between the two sides on the ladder.
Fletcher said: "People might not expect us to lose at Wolves but we have got to be very cautious. The performances they have produced haven't really got them the points they deserve. I think they have been mighty unlucky in a lot of games.
"They've had some good results against the bigger teams like Liverpool and Chelsea. We know it's going to be a very difficult match. Five or six years ago we experienced a loss at Wolves when we were sitting top of the league, so it just goes to show that you have to be wary and be on top of your game.''