Grant piles pressure on United

Avram Grant believes Man United could start feeling the pressure in the title race after Chelsea moved to within two points of the Premier League leaders.

updated: April 06, 2008 16:58 IST
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Avram Grant believes Manchester United could start feeling the pressure in the title race after Chelsea moved to within two points of the Premier League leaders.

Chelsea's 2-0 win at Manchester City on Saturday, thanks to a Richard Dunne own goal and Salomon Kalou's second-half strike, reduced the deficit at the head of the table 24 hours before United face Middlesbrough.

And with Sir Alex Ferguson's side due to visit Stamford Bridge on April 26, Grant has no doubt the outcome of this year's title battle will not be decided until the final days of the campaign.

"I think if you ask Alex and his players, we have put them under pressure all the last three months because we have won almost every game," Grant said. "I think we have won close to 80 percent of our games which is the record of champions.

"They are also doing very well. I don't think they will win it before the end of the season, but we need to do our job. We did our job so now we can expect a good result at Middlesbrough.

"From the psychological side, I don't know if it helps to play first or second, but it definitely helps if you play first and win."

Grant's position has come under scrutiny following the League Cup final defeat to Tottenham and last week's Champions League quarter-final first leg loss at Fenerbahce.

But the manager believes Chelsea's continuing presence near the head of the Premier League table shows how far they have come under his guidance.

He added: "When I took over Manchester City were five points ahead of us and Liverpool and Arsenal were ahead of us. So this squad has done a terrific job.

"I don't know if we will the title. But I do know we have come a long, long way. Many clubs were ahead of us and there is still one. I hope and I believe we can do it, if I didn't believe it I wouldn't be in football. But first we need to do our job.

"It's not easy to make up so many points but I know football is football and anything can happen."

A 1-0 victory over Fenerbahce at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday will be enough to see Chelsea through to the last four of the Champions League and Grant rested Didier Drogba against City in anticipation of that clash.

But despite going into the game as overwhelming favourites, the manager refused to predict an easy win for his side.

"I never know before the game what the result will be otherwise I would be a gambler and I would be a big millionaire," the manager said. "But I know what I expect and what we can do.

"We played well in both halves in Istanbul. They are a good team, a very good team, very good coach. I know we can win but I known it will not be easy.

"Our best two performances have been against Fenerbahce and Tottenham which for me was football at the top, top level but we didn't win so we need to play good and also to win. We can do it but it won't be easy."

City manager Sven Goran Eriksson insists he is more optimistic about his side's hopes of qualifying for Europe even though they sunk to yet another defeat.

Eriksson's side have won just three of their last 16 league games, prompting speculation the manager's position was less than secure but the Swede is convinced he can see signs of an upturn.

"If you had asked me a week ago at Birmingham I would say the season was in danger of dying because we were very poor," he said.

"But this time, no. I think we had a young team, three central midfielders and they competed very well against Chelsea's experienced players. I'm less depressed today than I was a week ago.

"I haven't spoken to the owner but I think he will be happier. You're never happy when you lose but today I feel much better than I did one week ago because they haven't given up, they fought, the spirit was right."

City are likely to have to negotiate their remaining games without young defender Nedum Onuoha who dislocated his shoulder in the second half after falling awkwardly.