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Scolari will ignore Ferguson's old tricks

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Phil McNulty | 09:56 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Sir Alex Ferguson at least had the decency to let Luiz Felipe Scolari unpack his bags and get his feet under the table at Chelsea's luxurious Cobham training base before trying to get under his skin.

Scolari has probably seen and heard the rather obvious psychological warfare Ferguson tries to inflict upon his fiercest rivals - and to be fair it was not a bad first effort from the old master.

Chelsea, apparently, are creaking a bit. Ferguson does not know how many more miles are left in those ageing Chelsea legs. He does not see where there will be a big improvement this season.

And - for good measure - he is not even sure about Scolari's command of the English language.

You can just see Ferguson sitting behind his desk holding up "Irritate Chelsea" check-list saying: "Yep - that just about covers everything."

They are the first shots of a very phoney war and a salvo Scolari will brush aside, and might even be flattered by.

It is the oldest trick in Ferguson's well-thumbed book and one he only reserves for clubs that might actually cause him some serious bother when the season gets under way.

This is the same sad old deteriorating Chelsea that lost the title to United on the final day of last season, and were just a John Terry penalty kick away from beating them in the Champions League final in Moscow in May.

While it is foolish to pick too many holes in Sir Alex's footballing arguments, one very swift check on the possible first-choice line-ups next season suggests they both average out aged 28.

Sir Alex Ferguson

And while we are at it, as someone who sat 10 feet away from Scolari in his first Chelsea media conference, Sir Alex should know I found his English not just passable, but excellent.

It is all good knockabout stuff - a sure sign that serious Premier League combat is about to start.

It allowed Ferguson to resume some sort of normal service after what should have been a glorious close season, basking in the fantastic achievement of winning the Premier League and Champions League, was over-shadowed by the posturing of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.
If United add Dimitar Berbatov, which it is assumed they will, and keep Ronaldo they will have a peerless array of attacking talent.

And Chelsea, as yet, have not pulled off the big headline signing many expected - although it appears Real Madrid's Robinho is lined up to fill that role.

Deco is not a guarantee. He struggled latterly at Barcelona, although he showed glimpses of his class at Euro 2008, while Jose Bosingwa is untested in England.

This is where the Scot's words do carry some substance.

But Ferguson will know, when the mind games are removed from the equation, that he has been presented with a dangerous new adversary in Scolari and that Chelsea will be his most formidable opponents this coming season.

They cannot, and will not, be dismissed or taken lightly.

And this is exactly why Ferguson chose to try and land a few early blows - albeit blows Chelsea will have seen coming from a very long way.

Scolari does not look like the sort of man to back down in the face of Ferguson's challenge, rather like Jose Mourinho before him.

Ferguson will be satisfied to have got his revenge in first by suggesting Chelsea might just be past their peak - but the fact that he chose to try and drive in the stake so early should be a source of satisfaction inside Stamford Bridge.

And I'm sure Scolari's English is up to formulating a suitable reply.

Let battle commence.


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