Grant feels United will crack like Keegan

Avram Grant believes Manchester United could be about to crack as Chelsea look to maintain their relentless pursuit of the Premier League leaders.

updated: May 10, 2008 07:47 IST
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Avram Grant believes Manchester United could be about to crack as Chelsea look to maintain their relentless pursuit of the Premier League leaders.

With his side preparing to visit Newcastle on Monday it was fitting that Grant should evoke the English league's most famous meltdown as he contemplated the possibility of the Blues profiting from a United collapse similar to the one that denied Kevin Keegan's club the title in 1996.

Newcastle topped the league by 12 points at one stage then before surrendering the lead under pressure from United. It was too much for Keegan, whose "I'd love it if we beat them" rant on live television revealed the full extent of his team's implosion.

Chelsea were eight points behind the leaders at one stage this year but have reeled off a 19-match unbeaten run to get back in the race in exactly the same way United came from behind 12 years ago.

Beating United, last weekend, allowed Grant's team to move level on points at the top and left the reigning champions spluttering towards the finish line.

They had won only one of their last four league matches and Ferguson was so furious that he didn't even speak to Chelsea's manager after the match.

United can still win the title with victories in their last two matches and their midweek success against Barcelona may provide a perfectly-timed boost but Grant is confident there will be one last twist in the tale.

"I remember that season (1996). I hope it happens again. I don't care who they slip up against, as long as they drop points," he said. "We want United to drop points, of course, but we have to do our job.

"United fought all the time with Arsenal this season and, when they beat them off, they must of thought everything was ok. Now Chelsea have come up and we're almost in the same position. It's a pressure. It's not easy.

"You need to be day by day with the team to know what is happening but we were behind them for a long time and now we're level with them.

"I think I know the reason Alex picked a weaker team against us. He thought he could make a good result here anyway. He was so angry after the game I couldn't speak with him."

Grant has managed to keep his cool in the heat of the title race and that serenity has spread to the dressing room. The Israeli insists his players are thriving on the challenge of catching United.

"The pressure at big clubs is there all the time but it's a good pressure. We like the challenge to chase," he said.

"It's not easy because if you lose points, you're out. I've done it in Israel. We were champions having been eight points behind once."

Chelsea meet Newcastle 48 hours after United host West Ham, so by the time they kick off the London club will know whether they need a positive result to go top or simply to remain in the race.

If Chelsea lose out to United for the league they have an instant chance for revenge when they face Ferguson's side in the Champions League final on May 21.

Grant admits he is proud of his team's achievements so far but he knows they have only fuelled a desire for more success.

"What we've done up until now has been incredible. It's shown that we've done a good job for us," Grant said. "It's been a big achievement. We want to do that. We need to do what we need to do.

"This club needs to think step by step. We know the vision of the club. Everybody sees that, from the football side, we're moving in the right way.

"The first ambition was to be in the final of the Champions League, especially in Moscow which means so much for the owner. We did that. With more food, you have more appetite."