MANCHESTER: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has told his players they are on the verge of a ‘big year’ as they hunt down a memorable treble.
Ferguson, whose side host Norwich today, is eyeing up his second treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season, and has called on his players to stand up and be counted as the pressure mounts over the final weeks of the season.
United are in the perfect position to chop and change as they sit 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League, allowing Ferguson to rest several key players against Norwich before their decisive Champions League last 16 second leg encounter with Real Madrid on Tuesday.
“The players sense it could be a big year for them,” he said. “But at this club, in this situation, anything can happen on the run-in.
“Players can all of a sudden find themselves playing in a final or an important league game because that is the kind of squad I have.”
United striker Wayne Rooney could feature against Norwich having recovered from a sinus infection and come on as a second-half substitute in last weekend’s win at QPR.
Benitez’s Chelsea saga set for new Baggies chapter
Rafael Benitez’s first match since his extraordinary attack on the club’s hierarchy sees him hoping to avoid becoming the latest Chelsea boss to be dismissed after facing West Bromwich Albion.
Fixtures between the two clubs have produced headlines in the past as Albion victories at the Hawthorns in March and November last year were followed by Chelsea dismissing first Andre Villas-Boas and then Roberto di Matteo, his replacement who had just won the Champions League.
Benitez, however, clarified his position in a BBC interview on Thursday, insisting he had an ‘excellent’ relationship with Abramovich and expected to remain at the club until the end of the season.
“My relationship with Roman Abramovich is very good,” said Benitez said. “When I meet him, we talk about football, we talk like normal people and share our passion for football.
“My relationship with the staff and people at the club is really good.”
Chelsea will kick off in fourth place but can go above Tottenham, who do not play until tomorrow, with a win. Albion are currently seventh, sandwiched between Merseyside rivals Everton and Liverpool.
I’m very happy at Liverpool: Suarez
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez has quashed all speculation about him wanting to leave Liverpool by saying he is ‘extremely happy’ at the club as they prepare to take on Wigan tomorrow.
“To be able to at such a big and successful club for so long like Steven (Gerrard) and (Jamie Carragher) Carra, I’d love to be able to do the same,” said the Uruguayan.
“I always say the same thing, every kid or young player growing up dreams of playing here at Liverpool, and today, here I am, highly privileged doing just that.
“I enjoy every minute to the maximum because it’s a great opportunity that my life has presented me and for which I am very pleased.
“I’m here at a club where I always wanted to be and where I always wanted to play, and for that I’m extremely happy.”
Chelsea v West Brom
Everton v Reading
Man United v Norwich
Sopton v QPR
Stoke v West Ham
Sunderland v Fulham
Swansea v Newcastle
Wigan v Liverpool
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2013.