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Managers back Man United for title

The majority of Premier League managers believe Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United will cling onto their lead and win the title this season.

• Prem stronger, not weaker - Fergie

A survey of 15 of the 20 top-flight bosses by Premier League and League Managers' Association sponsors Barclays revealed 80% of them backed United to become champions for a record-breaking 19th time.

Only 7% of managers questioned felt second placed Arsenal would overhaul United, whom they trail by five points with a game in hand, and the same proportion backed Chelsea to complete a sensational comeback to close the nine-point gap - again with a game in hand - to Ferguson's side.

The majority of managers also dismissed the notion the competitiveness of the Premier League this season was down to a reduction in quality. Sixty per cent cited greater strength in depth as the biggest factor and only 7% believed it was the result of falling standards at top clubs.

Four-fifths of those surveyed named Blackpool as their team of the season so far.

Of the survey's other findings, man management was declared the most important skill a boss can have (53%), with tactical know-how and ability to manage the board the least crucial aspects.

Ferguson was named the best manager in the history of the Premier League (87%) as well as being voted the greatest football manager of all time (27%), ahead of Jock Stein (20%) and Bob Paisley (13%).

United veteran Ryan Giggs was voted the greatest player to have graced the Premier League (47%), beating Eric Cantona (27%) and Alan Shearer (13%).

World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was named as the player most managers would like to sign for their club but less than 50% actually wanted him, with some preferring the defensive skills of Nemanja Vidic or the competitive spirit of Wayne Rooney.

Arsenal teenager Jack Wilshere was voted the young English player who has impressed managers most this season.

Rafael Van der Vaart was voted the best signing of the season having become Tottenham's leading goal scorer following his summer move from Real Madrid.

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