Sir Alex Ferguson admits there is much to admire in Chelsea’s midfield – including a player he regrets not signing - as he prepares to pitch Anderson and Tom Cleverley into action against them at Old Trafford.
“Fantastic” and “unbelievable” were the words he found to describe Frank Lampard, when prompted by Sunday newspaper journalists at his pre-match press conference. The England international recently scored his 202nd goal for Chelsea – equalling the club record set by striker Bobby Tambling – even though he has spent his 12 seasons at Stamford Bridge in their engine room.
“The guy has had a great career,” acknowledged Sir Alex at his pre-match press conference. “I must say we looked at him when he was at West Ham as a young player and I maybe regret not having done it.
“Where else could I get 200 goals [from midfield]? I don’t think a midfield player will be able to do that again. It’s quite phenomenal. He’s had a great knack, like Bryan Robson had, of timing his run into the box at the right time. John Wark at Ipswich was another one exactly like that, he could time his runs late into the box.
“That has got Lampard 200 goals, but also I can’t remember him ever being injured. If he’s not been playing, then maybe it’s because they thought he was past it or whatever.”
Another factor in Lampard’s diminishing number of starts for Chelsea is the form of three younger midfield stars in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata. Sir Alex feels that trio has been key in keeping Chelsea competing for trophies and a Champions League place while under the interim management of Rafa Benitez.
“I think those three players are three good players,” said Sir Alex. “It’ll be difficult for any manager to change that as they’re their three best players by far. Benitez is only there as interim until the new man comes in. But any new manager would be silly to get rid of those three players.”
As for the make-up of his own midfield, the United boss could bring Anderson and Tom Cleverley back for their first starts