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Now Fergie can smell Blue blood.

Byline: ANDY DUNN

WELCOME back, Fergie, we've missed you.

We've missed your barbed jibes at rivals, we've missed your red face.

We've missed your appetite for the fight, we've missed your gum-chewing defiance.

Sir Alex Ferguson. You used to either loathe him or loathe him.

But for three-quarters of this mundane season, you have had only one feeling about him.

Indifference.

In charge of an indifferent team who finished bottom of an indifferent Champions League group.

In charge of an indifferent team knocked out of the Cup by Liverpool in one of the most indifferent games you are ever likely to see. In charge of an indifferent team owned by a tycoon who's so indifferent he has never attended a game.

Most people used to hate Manchester United, some used to love them. But this season, no-one has really cared.

Until today.

Fergie is back to his vintage, Keegan-baiting best, claiming we'll see what Jose Mourinho and Chelsea are really made of if United beat Arsenal.

The signs of Fergie's resurgence have been flickering for a while.

His demotion of Ruud van Nistelrooy was the clearest evidence for some time that the old ruthlessness is still there.

But what has really sharpened his edge has been Chelsea's recent display of weakness. Their feeble capitulation a Fulham, their grinding draw at Birmingham, the paranoia of their manager.

Fergie smells blood.

A couple of weeks ago, this afternoon's game was nothing more than a decent fixture between two fading giants.

But now, it is the meeting of two re-energised teams...

United, revived by their Carling Cup Final win and by Fergie's decision to axe one of the most prolific scorers the Premiership has seen. Arsenal, revived by imperious performances against two grandees of Europe.

And much to Chelsea's chagrin, the match at Old Trafford is a meeting between two teams playing the sort of football you would pay to watch.

Where I come from, Manchester United is a name normally abbreviated to four letters.

But even some Scousers will be hoping United prevail today.

What we need after a season which has been dominated by talk of cheating, diving and Chelsea's money-orientated dominance is a proper fight between a great (Fergie) and a pretend-great (Mourinho).

What we need is for Fergie to head to Stamford Bridge in three weeks' time with the chance to really put the heat on Jose.

After seven months without one, we need a title race.

And if United beat Arsenal today, we will have one.

Welcome back, Fergie, we've missed you.

YELLOW CARD

DAVID GILL for this gobbledygook: "Our goal was to find an organisation with the right pedigree, one that shared our vision, one with the right size, structure, culture and ethos." Yep, and one that gives us sixty-million quid.

SECOND YELLOW

WAYNE ROONEY - for hiring, at great expense, a dog trainer. Where Wayne comes from, a dog trainer usually means a size 10 with a steel toe-cap.

STRAIGHT RED

THE England cricket team. Never mind Delhi belly, their one-day efforts have been enough to give anyone stomach cramps.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 9, 2006
Words:513
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