Old Trafford title holders play host to top four chasing Chelsea.
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Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has called on his already crowned Premier League champions to play with freedom for the remainder of the season.
United welcome top-four chasing Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday and Ferguson wants his side to impress even if they do have their 20th English league title secured.
A draw at Arsenal last week ended United’s hopes of overhauling Chelsea’s record Premier League points tally of 95, but Ferguson remains focused.
“It is time for us to play with a good enthusiasm, relax and enjoy ourselves,” he said. “That is what I want to see and hopefully we can have a good end to the season.”
Having been enjoying title celebrations and the Professional Footballers’ Association Awards ceremony recently, United’s players have certainly been kept busy off the field.
They also have their trophy parade coming on May 13 following the presentation after the Swansea game at Old Trafford the day before, but Ferguson does not want it all to get out of hand while the season is still ongoing.
“It is inevitable that these things happen,” Ferguson said. “I never took into account of all the things that were happening, the PFA awards and our own player of the year awards, and then the parade.
“Then (club captain Nemanja) Vidic came to me and asked could they go to Chester Races next Wednesday and I said without thinking ‘yes of course’ and then we put all these things together and I was saying ‘bloody hell, I hope they don’t forget there are games of football to be won’.
“It is difficult, they have had a fantastic season and they deserve to celebrate as a team. They have had a hard season but they still have to win games.”
Ferguson will be without striker Danny Welbeck for the visit of Chelsea but Paul Scholes could make an appearance on the substitutes’ bench as the veteran midfielder has recovered from the knee injury that has kept him out since January.
Rafael Benitez’s success in guiding Chelsea towards a successful climax to a frustrating season — an achievement that has been marked with the April manager of the month award — has been overshadowed by the growing speculation Jose Mourinho is poised to return to Stamford Bridge.
Benitez’s departure from his post as interim manager has never been in doubt, but it is in keeping with his turbulent reign that recognition of his achievements in west London comes when focus is fixed elsewhere.
Should Mourinho leave Real Madrid and succeed Benitez, there is a growing possibility he will take over a team on the rise.
The midweek victory over Basel secured Chelsea’s place in the Europa League final when they will start as firm favourites to beat Benfica in Amsterdam.
And a return of 10 points from a possible 12 means they are on course to finish third and claim a place in the Champions League group stage.
Defeat at Old Trafford, however, could change the balance of that three-way battle with London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham for the two remaining places in the top four, particularly as Spurs visit Stamford Bridge three days later.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres said: “I’ve been scoring goals, helping the team to win matches and now we’re really looking forward to the final.
“We need to focus on that game now but also on the Premier League because we need to finish in the top four to make sure we are playing in the Champions League next season.”
Venue Old Trafford, Sunday 4pm
Last season Man Utd 3 Chelsea 1
Referee H Webb
This season’s matches 27 Y100, R3, 3.81 cards per game
Subs from Lindegaard, Johnstone, Büttner, Hernández, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs, Powell, Smalling, Evans, Kagawa
Injured Fletcher (illness, Aug), Young (ankle, Aug)
Form guide DWDWLW
Disciplinary record Y54 R0
Leading scorer Van Persie 25
Subs from Turnbull, Hilário, Ferreira, Terry, Cahill, Ake, Bertrand, Moses, Marin, Benayoun, Torres, Lampard
Doubtful Hazard (ankle)
Injured Romeu (knee, Aug)
Form guide WDWWLW
Disciplinary record Y46 R2
Leading scorer Ba 15 (13 for Newcastle)
This will be the fifth meeting between the sides this season. Chelsea beat United in both the FA and League Cups (the former after a replay) but United won 3-2 in the league encounter at Stamford Bridge.
United and Chelsea have met 41 times in the Premier League; both sides have won 13 times each, with 15 draws.
The last six clashes in all competitions have produced 29 goals at an average of 4.8 goals per game.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have lost more games (13) and conceded more goals (55) against Chelsea than any other side in the Premier League.
United have won just two of their last five league games (W2, D2, L1).
Their draw with Arsenal last weekend means they cannot now break Chelsea’s top-flight record of 95 points.
The Red Devils have come from behind to win nine Premier League games this season.
They are the only team not to concede a penalty in the Premier League this season and the only team not to receive a red card.
Since ending his 10-game goal drought, Robin van Persie has scored six of United’s last seven goals. The Dutchman has
scored more league goals in his debut season for United than any other player has managed in their first season in the club’s history.
Chelsea have won three of their last four league games (W3, D1) but only taken five points from their last six away games (W1, D2, L3).
They have scored 15 headed goals in the league this season, more than any other top-flight team.
Frank Lampard needs one goal to equal Bobby Tambling’s all-time scoring record for the club of 202.
Chelsea will be playing their 65th match of the season.