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Three's company for title race says Ferguson

Manchester United head to Arsenal tomorrow with Alex Ferguson believing the top end of the Premier League has finally split into two.

Heading out of the Christmas period, seven teams could plausibly have claimed to retain some involvement in the Premier League title.

Now that number is down to three. As Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool have continued to drop points, Chelsea, United and Arsenal are piecing together unbeaten runs that have started to ease them clear.

"It looks to me that there is some consistency coming from the top three," he said.

"There are more points being dropped by those trying to get the fourth position than those in the top three now, which makes it very competitive.

"Fourth looks like a league of its own. You cannot dismiss any of them.

"But I don't think anything is settled. We are not certain to win the league. Neither are Chelsea or Arsenal. But we have all got a chance."

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti will no doubt be looking for a draw tomorrow, which will be the first meeting between United and the Gunners since Arsene Wenger labelled Darren Fletcher "anti-football" at Old Trafford in August.



aTTACK

And it was an attack Ferguson felt was totally unwarranted.

As he is calling for an end to the disgraceful taunts at Wenger from the United fans at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, Ferguson has wisely resisted the temptation to launch a sustained attack on the Frenchman.

But he does think Wenger's analysis of Fletcher did not reflect well on his old adversary.

"That is where Arsene lets himself down," said Ferguson.

"What he said was disappointing and actually, I don't think he believes it for a minute.

"Everyone knows that Darren Fletcher is not a dirty player or a physical player. He is not built that way.

"But he can win the ball and his timing and energy to get to it is fantastic. You can't call that a fault. Being able to tackle properly is a great part of the game."

The Scotland skipper is likely to be involved tomorrow but Rio Ferdinand will not be as he starts a four-match ban.



compensate

Nemanja Vidic's recovery from a nerve problem in his leg should compensate for the England man's absence, while five goals in a week from Wayne Rooney means he will be the striker Arsenal will have to watch if they are to prevent Ferguson's side recording a first Premier League win at the Emirates.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas enjoys facing United more than any other Premier League team.

The Gunners are one point behind the champions in the race for the Premier League title.

"Manchester United surpasses all the other matches for me," Fabregas said.

"As a player it is the one game I really look forward to playing in every season.

"Chelsea is really good, Liverpool too and Tottenham is special, particularly for the fans who get really excited. But if you have to pick one game from 38 then playing against Man U is the game.

"For me it is definitely the most special game to play in the Premier League."

Fabregas has been delighted to prove wrong the critics, who wrote off Arsenal's title chances after they were beaten 3-0 by Chelsea in November.

"They had already written us off, even before the season had started," he said.

"But we didn't care. We knew we had to react.

"We haven't lost in the league since, so it has been a very positive reaction."

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