23/09/2012 08:00, Report by Adam Marshall

Top-four tussle

Sir Alex Ferguson feels it will be a real dogfight for teams to get into the top four of the Barclays Premier League this season.

Manchester United have recovered well from the opening-match defeat at Everton but the manager is fully aware of the competition increasing from elsewhere, in addition to the threat posed by champions Manchester City. By early November, the Reds will have played a number of the clubs battling to earn a place in next season's Champions League.

"If we want to keep up the top of the league, which is where we want to be, it’s quite a difficult period for us now," explained Sir Alex. "We’ve got Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal all in the next few weeks so it’ll be nice to keep up there.

"This season, I do expect Chelsea to be better than last year. Arsenal are better than last year – no doubt. Their start has been very good. Ourselves and City are where we were last year. Those four, I think, will be the top four. Everton, of course, could and want to get in there. Tottenham could and want to. It's hard for Liverpool with their new regime as it may take time to develop that. But all three of those clubs will be desperate to get in that top four."

The boss believes Arsene Wenger's Gunners are a different proposition this term, despite selling Robin van Persie and Alex Song during the summer.

"Arsenal have changed formation in terms of physique. They look a much stronger and physical team than they’ve had in Arsene Wenger’s time – well since Vieira, Petit, Bould, Adams and Keown. They are a big side now. Look around their team, it’s quite powerful."

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