Sir Alex pens his thoughts ahead of every home match for United Review, the first page to turn to for fans, press and opponents alike. Even after the event, it makes good reading. So here, in full, is the manager's column from the Fulham programme...
I never dreamt for one moment that we would go top of the Premier League without playing our games in hand. Yet here we are, two points ahead of Liverpool, and tonight we have the chance to really turn the screw as we welcome Fulham to Old Trafford.
This is the fixture we should have played in August, but couldn’t because of our involvement in the UEFA Super Cup. And now as we finally catch up with our schedule, we must do our best to make it count. The fact that we are already in the lead has happened a lot sooner than I expected. My original target was simply to be in touch with the top teams as we went into the new year, but a combination of a few slip-ups by our rivals, combined with a tremendous run of form ourselves, has allowed us to nose in front. We now have the chance to improve what is, at present, a slender advantage.
I think we're beginning to rattle the other contenders. I wonder whether the challenge we have mounted lately was a factor in Chelsea’s dramatic decision to sack Phil Scolari after only seven months in the job.
I was shocked that they should part with a manager of such great experience and proven success so soon. Their haste is a reflection of the sad way the game is going, with everyone from owners, the board members, the supporters and the media demanding instant success, and showing absolutely no patience in the pursuit of their ambition. I would have thought it self-evident that winning the prizes comes with stability and long-term planning. Yet so often when a club is faced with a few problems, wisdom flies out of the window in the hope that a new man can bring about a quick fix.
It may well turn out that Chelsea immediately start winning again because a new manager, or a caretaker – especially someone as intelligent as Ray Wilkins – can often bring about an improvement, but it’s usually temporary. The impetus fades, and a new man has to start all over again, putting together his staff and gathering players of his choice which may or may not be the same as the previous incumbent’s squad.
Looking at the Chelsea situation from United’s point of view, I think they have played into our hands, and that the title race now is going