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Keegan ready to hand old foe Fergie a tenth title

SoccerNews in English Premier League 5 May 2008

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Kevin Keegan will forever be associated with a televised rant against Sir Alex Ferguson more than a decade ago.

But that has not prevented the Newcastle boss from suggesting he would 'love it' if his side were to beat Chelsea here on Monday — a result which would hand Ferguson the tenth Premier League title of his 22-year reign at Old Trafford.

Although Newcastle have only pride left to play for this season, Keegan has pledged to field a full-strength side with Australian striker Mark Viduka notably delaying treatment for an Achilles problem to ensure he can line up against Chelsea.

Keegan believes the recent form of Michael Owen will be of particular concern for his Chelsea counterpart Avram Grant while midfielder Nicky Butt, a former United star, makes no secret of his desire to help his old boss Ferguson clinch another trophy.

“I'm a great believer in playing football the right way,” said the former England international. “I'm not saying Chelsea don't but it's more attractive to the eye watching United games.

“Football's about not losing and Chelsea have become masters at that. Obviously I'd love United to win it and it would be more of a highlight for the football purist if they did.”

United's 4-1 demolition of West Ham on Saturday has left Chelsea with no room for error and even if they beat Newcastle and Bolton in their remaining games, Ferguson's men will top the table on goal difference if they win their final match at Wigan.

“United are more experienced than anyone in the Premier League and I can't see them slipping up,” added Butt.

“They're definitely going to win the league and they have a great chance of the Champions League. With the players they've got they're capable of beating any team.”

Butt is revelling in the recent upturn in Newcastle's form after a difficult start to Keegan's second spell at the club.

“Kevin's brought a smile to the club, he keeps it simple, tells you what he expects and it's a nice way to play football,” he said.

Newcastle go into Monday's match on a seven-game unbeaten run in which Owen, who has scored six goals in his last 11 games, has been a crucial factor, operating in a withdrawn role behind Viduka and Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins.

“I think he's different to the Michael Owen of old and he's suited to a different role,” Keegan said. “He's been asked different questions and the answers he's coming up with are world class.

“In the position he's playing in for us, nobody in the world could do a better job. He's playing in two positions. He's linking us up and scoring goals. Instead of having one player up front we've got two. We're playing with 12 men sometimes — that's how I feel. It's because of his fitness and his awareness.”

Newcastle are likely to make only once change, with Abdoulaye Faye returning from injury to take over from David Edgar at the heart of their defence.

Chelsea will have enjoyed five days rest since their Champions League success over Liverpool, reducing the pressure on Grant to rest any of his stars.

But, with the Newcastle defence vulnerable to pace, there could be a place for Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has been frozen out in recent weeks.

Wright-Phillips is reported to be dismayed at his lack of action, but Grant said: “If Shaun is not happy, given my relationship with the player, he can come and tell me. He didn't tell me that.

“I don't think there's a problem. We are in historic moments in Chelsea, so this is a moment to say 'thank you' to all the players at Chelsea.

“Shaun was our best player in December. This is a time to respect everybody at the club. It has not been an easy season, but it will also belong to these kind of players.”

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