Sir Alex Ferguson looked ahead to "the biggest match" of Manchester United's season and insisted opposite number Carlo Ancelotti was not a man under pressure at Chelsea.
Although the sudden departure of Ancelotti's assistant, former United midfielder Ray Wilkins, is said not to have had a damaging effect at Stamford Bridge, it has coincided with a dreadful run of results that has seen Chelsea win just once in their last seven Premier League games. From a position of superiority at the top of the table, the Blues are now slumped in fourth.
"We're reading all this about him being under pressure since Ray Wilkins has left, but I don't see that myself," he said in a press conference that was screened by MUTV. "He will have his own single-minded determination to prove himself."
Defeat to Manchester United on Sunday would leave Chelsea six points behind, having played a game more, with seemingly no chance of pulling the gap back, even in this extraordinary campaign.
Little wonder there has been so much chatter about Ancelotti's position, even to the extent of whether he will see out the season.
But Ferguson does not look at the former AC Milan coach and think he is a man under stress. He can only find the determination you would expect from a man of such vast experience.
He added: "He is a winner. He was a great footballer with Milan and won the European Cup twice with them. He has done fantastic and I just think the show will go on."
Ancelotti certainly could not have done much more in his debut season. Chelsea shrugged off the bitter disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan to complete the domestic double for the first time.
The league is proving more competitive than ever this season and even Ferguson can see the overall benefits.
"I think it's a tough league but what do people want?" he said. "Do they want Manchester United or Chelsea or Arsenal to be steamrollering the league every season? The general public like what they're seeing now; ourselves dropping points, Chelsea dropping points, Arsenal dropping points."
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